There's a guy, we'll call Steve. Steve is single, has a decent job, and over all is a good person. He's been chatting online with a cute blonde girl we'll call Denise. Her profile has a picture of her wearing a sexy prom dress. And while the written part is pretty bare, she does say she's into sports, fishing and casual sex. Steve and Denise exchanged a few emails on the dating site and agree to meet. She emails him her appartment address with plans to chat over a beer one night and "see where it goes".
Steve shows up around 10 p.m. excited and nervous at her front door. The door opens and an interracial man who could pass for a fullback football player answers the door. At first Steve thinks he's a room mate, a visiting friend, maybe even a boyfriend. But no, it turns out Denise is really Dennis. And Dennis is wanting to "experiment" with other dudes.
So where did Steve go wrong? How did he end up getting tricked into a date with a man, who wasn't even the right nationality? The evidence was all there if only Steve had know what to look for and taken the proper procautionary steps.
1. Empty profiles are a huge red flag. "Denise's" profile was a dead give away that "she" was not all she seemed. She only had one undated photo and didn't put much effort or info in her profile. The person should talk a little about themselves. If they don't feel comfortable sharing even their most basic information, chances are really good they're a fake. People who have something to hide keep their profiles as bare as possible so they don't have to remember a bunch of lies and can make up their story on the fly taylored to whoever contacts them.
2. Photographic evidence is a must. Anytime there is only one picture you are running the risk of it being "borrowed". Could be from a friend's page, an old yearbook, some random website or an Express clothing catalogue. Pictures should have at least a year and it should look legit. Group shots where you aren't sure which person in the picture the profile belongs to or worse, no pictures at all- should be an automatic dispualification. Also, pictures are often "outdated", aka...really, really old. Or manipulative. Pictures taken from a high vantage point, only from the neck up or seriously cropped, should warn you off. If they offer to email you or text you photos... tell them to take a hike. These people are notoriously already married, are criminals or have shady intentions.
If they have multiple pictures, compare them to each other. Which ever picure shows them looking the fattest, baldest, oldest etc... assume it's the most recent. You're not dating the hotter, younger version of what they used to be in their glory days, you're getting the present date version which may not be exactly what you bargained for.
3. Ask for verification. Especialy with a poorly drafted profile, Steve didn't confirm Denise was who she said she was. Aside from Googling someone, most people have some form of social media that confirms they exist. And in the form they're claiming. They don't have to necessarily "add you", but they should have a site or two you can look at that will confirm the picture and name on their dating profile is a living person. Take advantage of that.
4. Do a voice check. Even if the person is able to provide you with a Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and a Youtube video of them doing the funky chicken dance at their cousin's wedding, make sure you have at least one 5 minute long phone conversation. This gives you a chance to test out their gender, possible age range, something of their personality and whether you'll have anything to say to each other. If you're leery of giving out your phone number to a stranger, get a Google number. That will afford you some privacy but still enable you to have that very valuable phone call.
5. Agree that it's a "meet", not a "date". Dates can be stressful, ripe with anticipation and expectation. They're also specific for hope and intent for some kind of future, even if it's just one sucessful night stand. Calling this a "meet" downgrades it to just saying hello in person. No pressure, no expectations and no comittments. It will take the pressure off and make it easier for you both to be yourselves and interaction naturally.
6. Agree to meet in public places only. I can't tell you how many problems and dangerous situations I've heard from online daters that would have been avoided if only the people had agreed to meet in a public location during business hours where other people (potential witnesses) are around. If you're not trying to spend money before you know if you like each other (meet for food or movies etc.), plenty of stores work as a great place to get some face time in the flesh. Book stores, special interest (sports, hobbies, etc.) shops, department stores, inside a mall... anywhere you can safely leave without causing a scene if the person is faking their idenity. I once met up with someone from online in the lumber section of Home Depot.
You have absolutely no protection or safety net if you meet at a home, hotel or secluded location. If you hit it off walking arounding talking in the running shoe store, you can always leave afterwards to go...wherever.
7. Keep your personal stuff safe. Cars, homes, purses, wallets, phones, keys. These are not just things we need to function in our daily lives, they're valuable sources of private information we don't want just anyone having access to. Meet someone inside a store, not in your car in the parking lot. I've heard of at least three incidents now where someone met in a parkinglot and their catfish was so bold as to get into their car, uninvited. If a person knows where you live or what your car and license plate are, they will be extremely difficult to get rid of should they turn out to be a physcopathic stalker. Stories abound of people being robbed, car jacked, etc. because they didn't properly check someone out before letting them into their private world too soon.
Keep your personal items close by and when possible, keep them on your person.
8. Never make promises before you meet. The 2000's are the Brave New World of online hook ups. And while there are pros and cons of that, you must always, always put safety first. You can agree that you find each other attractive online and may be interested in getting to know them better, but you're opening yourself for a world of hurt, disapointment and danger if you agree to have a weekend fling or let someone move in rent free in exchange for regular sex, before you even know if they are who they say they are. Online chemistry, even phone chemistry doesn't always translate into in-person chemistry. And after all, if you're looking to have a real human interaction with them (maybe even a relationship) how you get along in person is the most important thing.
This is especially important of one or both of you are planning to travel to meet. Have a backup plan (somewhere to stay or a way to get home) in the event that your potential dream date turns into a nightmare.
9. Call them out for being a phony. Too many people are afraid to hurt someone's feelings if they meet and it turns out they fudged facts like 10 years from their age and 50 pounds from their gut on their profile. It's been my experience that the only people who meet and then imediately ask if their profile pictures look like them in person... do not in fact look like their profile pictures. At the very least, politely tell the person you're disapointed they're not who they said they were and that their lying prevented you from wanting to get to know them better. Honesty is the best policy. There are no online dating police. If people don't keep each other in line by stating the obvious, they're just going to turn around a catfish the next person without remorse. Do your part to keep people honest.