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Online dating is becoming increasingly popular, but the truth of the matter is dating anyone from the Internet, no matter how long you’ve been talking to them, can be risky and dangerous. The important part about all of this is to date wisely (no catfishing!) and safely, and to know how to protect yourself. Here are 14 tips for first date safety.

Talk on the phone first

Before ever agreeing to go out on a date with a man, make sure that you talk to him on the phone first. We’ve all heard the stories of people being catfished and men using fake pictures. Don’t set up a date without talking to a man on the phone. Talking on the phone allows you to hear his voice as well as engage in conversation with him. This gives you a good chance to feel him out, at least a little bit.

Keep an eye out for any red flags

During your time of talking with this guy, either through text or email, keep track of any red flags instead of ignoring them. If this man says or does anything that makes you think twice, definitely keep track of this. Enough red flags should definitely sway your decision on whether or not to go on the date.

Do some investigating

Nowadays everyone has some sort of social networking account. Google his name and see what you can find. Don’t hesitate to check to see if he’s had any run-ins with the law either. The more investigating that you do, the better off you’ll be when you go on the date. Again, keep track of red flags and do your homework before meeting this man.

Meet somewhere public

Once you decide to go on a date, make sure that you choose somewhere public where there will be a lot of people around. Consider going to a restaurant, a cafe, or even a museum. The first date definitely shouldn’t be one that involves time away from people, stick to public locations until you feel comfortable around this man.

Don’t let him pick you up

On the first date, politely decline if your date offers to pick you up from your home. Though it’s a nice gesture and it’s definitely convenient for you, you don’t want this man to know where you live right off the bat. Drive yourself or take public transportation to get to the date.

Don’t let him drive you home

Even if the date went amazingly and you feel like you can trust this guy, don’t let him drive you home on the first date. You don’t want to be stuck in a car with a guy you don’t know 100% and again, you don’t want him to have your address just yet. Take a cab home if it comes down to it.

Control your alcohol consumption

Drinking is a good way to make things a little less awkward and to loosen both of you up, but be careful when alcohol is in the picture. When you drink too much, all sorts of things can happen. Stop yourself at three drinks max and be sure to sip plenty of water. Alcohol impairs your judgement and decision, which isn’t wise on a first date.

Have a friend nearby

If you have a really close friend who is willing to do anything for you, don’t hesitate to ask him/her to tag along with you to the date and to kind of sit around in the background or hang out in a nearby location. This way in case anything goes wrong, you have someone close by who can help.

Check in with a friend or family member

Though it can be rude to text during a date, be sure to text either a friend or family member once you arrive for the date, sometime during the date, and after the date. If you head to the bathroom, don’t think twice about sending a friend a text with a quick note about how things are going. Staying in contact gives you and others peace of mind.

Don’t go home immediately after a date

Instead of going directly home after a date, consider making a pit stop somewhere. Stop and get gas to fill your tank or meet a friend at a cafe. Going straight home after a date can cause a problem if the guy you were with for some reason decides to follow you home. It’s better to be safe than sorry because you never know with some men.

Keep some details to yourself

The first date is all about getting to know each other, so you’re sure to tell him all sorts of details about yourself and your life. However, you’ll want to keep certain things to yourself. Don’t tell this man what company you work for, what school you go to, and don’t mention any of your friends names to him.

Kiss and hug outside of the car

If a date goes really well, you may find that at the end of the night you and this man are hugging and kissing, which is a good sign! However, be sure that all of this affection and PDA takes place outside of his car and your car. This way you aren’t confined or locked in the car in the event that something goes wrong.

Bring cash with you

Unfortunate things can happen at any time. Maybe you didn’t have the best luck the night of your date and your car refuses to start or something else puts you in a vulnerable position. When you go on a date, always bring some cash along with you, just in case something out of your control happens.

Listen to your gut

In most cases when you feel like something is wrong, your gut feeling is almost always right. If you start to feel awkward or weird in some way or another, don’t hesitate to end the date and leave. When things don’t feel right and you don’t feel safe, there is no need to keep yourself in that position. Listen to what your gut is telling you.

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