When you have met someone new, whether in person or online, the first thought to pop into your mind when arranging to meet is not likely to be your safety. You are more likely to be thinking along the lines of how to calm your nerves, what to wear, or what will you have to talk about, right? Planning to put the pepper spray into your bag probably features much lower down the list, if at all.

Not to be a buzzkill on your dating parade, but with the modern world that we live in, you never know who someone really is until you’ve been able to get to  know them a little more or been able to meet their family and friends, and so on. I mean, seriously, things are probably unlikely to get to get to Joe from ‘You’ level of creepy, but it is best not be naive about these kinds of thing so that you can be prepared.

There are some pretty shocking stats about women dating. In fact, recently, in a guide to stopping violence against women, it was found that 23% of undergraduate females reported that they had experienced sexual assault. That is nearly a quarter of females at colleges around the country, which is a pretty shocking statistic. So it goes to show that although there are still 77% that had not reported assault when dating someone, it is best to be prepared if you did ever find yourself in a situation that could make you one of the twenty-three.

So with that in mind, here are some top dating tips to help to protect your privacy and to keep you safe, until you feel that you can trust them and begin a formal relationship with them. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this, and if there is anything that you would add to the list?

Don’t Give Personal Details

Does a random person that you met on a dating app need to know your place of birth and mother’s maiden name, for instance? They aren’t going to need to know these kinds of thing, until things are getting pretty serious perhaps and you’re looking into family history! But until a time like that, it is a good idea to keep things general. If someone was trying to stalk you, then any small pieces of information can give them more to go on and to search online with. So make sure that you avoid this, and alarm bells should be ringing if they start to ask questions like this; they are not normal first date questions.

Don’t Give Out Your Number Early On

If you have met someone on an app, then it is quite normal to move on from the app to swapping numbers, to make things like texting a little easier. But if you give away your number too early on, before you know them enough, then it can be pretty bad news. For starters, using things like WhatsApp, they can see when you were last online and could be obsessive over when you reply to them. If someone was trying to catfish you to get information off you for fraudulent purposes, then if they’re tech savvy enough, it could lead to phone hacking or tracking your whereabouts. It is important to remember that when someone has information about you, then you can’t take it back. So make sure that you trust them as much as you can, before you start giving something out like your phone number. Your number is a stalker’s dream as they can be in constant contact with you.

Don’t Post on Social Media Anything That Identifies You

It can be tempting to share information on your social media channels about the new car that you got or the new apartment that you have moved into. But if they know the town that you’re in and now what your new front door looks like, someone dedicated enough to finding you could do just that. Car registrations can give things away too, so although you should feel free to post things on your channels, you need to remember to not post things that are going to show a flashing neon sign of ‘oh look, this is where I live.’

Avoid Specific Details

There are a lot of things that you might consider pretty regular small talk conversations, such as the college you went to or the company that you work for, along with your job title. But things like that might not actually be as harmless as they may seem. If you went out with someone that you decided not to see again, but they weren’t taking no for an answer, but they know where you work and in which department, then they can easily find you. So although it may make for a challenge when asked to talk about yourself, try to think about keeping things general like saying you work in marketing, rather than you work for Unilever in the laundry marketing team. Don’t give too much away and keep things pretty general.

Google Them

We may joke about Googling someone or ‘stalking’ them, but in actual fact, it can be a smart move to do so. When you are getting to know someone, we show only our best selves, which does make sense. But it isn’t going to be a good thing if their other ‘self’ is a pretty sinister one. There is a lot of information that is public and available online, such as something like ever being made bankrupt. If you are pretty wealthy or have recently come into some money, and about to go on a date with someone that was declared bankrupt last month, then is that a wise move? Could they know more than they are letting on and actually be after your money? So don’t be worried about searching online to check that what they are saying is in fact true. As has been said, it pays to be prepared.

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

On apps and social media there can be plenty of photos to have a look at. And you can learn a lot about people from their photos. But it shouldn’t be all that you learn about them, as photos can be curated and staged. They might look like a normal guy as they are really good looking and travel a lot, but it is important to remember that everyone is going to be their best selves on the first date; even psychopaths. Think of similar situations in the past, like the serial killer Ted Bundy, for example. Women were happy to go off with him alone as he didn’t ‘look’ like a bad guy. So take things with a pinch of salt, and don’t judge a book by its cover, in both senses of the phrase.

Meet in Public Places

When you are meeting up with someone for the first time and you’ll be alone, make sure that you are meeting up with them in a public place. A bar or a restaurant are usually good places to meet, as there are plenty of people around to ensure your safety. Try not to go for open spaces that are public but are a little secluded, like a walk in the woods, a bike trail, or a park. If they get quite adamant about meeting somewhere, and won’t listen to where you want to meet, then it could be a sign of something sinister. It could not be, but best to be prepared. Think about the time of day that you meet as well, to make sure that it won’t be too dark when trying to get home, for example. Don’t just think it will be easier if they come round to your home, as that can be tricky in many ways, especially if they won’t leave. And likewise, it is so important to suggest an alternative place to meet if they are the one suggesting that they come round or you to go theirs.

Don’t Lead Anyone On

When someone is unbalanced and you get quite intimate with them but call it all off quickly after, could lead to being stalked. The key point is that we don’t know what is going on in someone’s mind, especially at the start when you don’t know anything about them. So be honest, and don’t rush into anything, especially if you’re not really that interested in them. This will be best for all involved.

At the end of the day, you need to trust your gut instinct and if you feel like something isn’t right, then make sure that you’re able to get out of the situation. Nine times out of ten things are going to be fine (or more like seven out of ten when you look a the stats). So you just need to be prepared for anything else that might come your way, but hopefully, never having to need it.