Dating online? Top 5 tips to play it safe when meeting for the first time

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Have you met someone you like online? Are you planning a date together? People are being warned to make sure they play it safe when meeting an online lover for the first time.

The National Crime Agency is warning people to make sure they “get to know the person, not the profile” following an increase in serious sexual assaults after online dates.

The agency is reminding people that others can act differently online and aren’t always the same in person.

A spokesman said: “When you meet an online date for the first time, remember they are still a stranger.”

Here are their top five tips for meeting somebody face-to-face for the first time:

1. Plan it. Say it. Do it. It’s your date. Agree on what you both want from it before you meet up. Don’t feel pressured to meet before you’re ready or for any longer than you’re comfortable with – a short first date is fine.

2. Meet in public. Stay in public. The safest plan is to meet somewhere public and stay somewhere public. Make your own way there and back and don’t feel pressured to go home with your date. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date’s.

3. Get to know the person, not the profile. The way people interact online isn’t always the same face-to-face. Don’t be offended if your date is more guarded when meeting in person. or if things don’t progress as fast face-to-face.

4. Not going well? Make your excuses and leave. Don’t feel bad about cutting a date short if you’re not keen. You don’t owe the other person anything, no matter how long you’ve been chatting or what’s been suggested.

5. If you’re raped or sexually assaulted on your date, help is available. No matter what the circumstances, sexual activity against your will is a crime. Police and charities are here to help and support you.

For more information and advice, visit the National Crime Agency website.