Complete and total safety lies in never meeting anyone new. Everything else is a judgment call.
The people on the internet you might meet are the same people in "the real world."
Somebody totally freakin' great and totally perfect for you? By now, they're on the internet.
Somebody wrong or totally wrong for you that you hope NOT to meet? They're on the internet too.
In short, almost anyone you can imagine is on the internet. Your element of risk on the internet is no greater than anywhere else. In fact, a lot of folks would say your element of risk CAN be LESS meeting folks on the internet than out in the real world, because you can assess them better before agreeing to meet in person. However, that lowered risk for YOU would involve exercising YOUR common sense.
You can get information and impressions about people you meet on the internet before you decide to meet them face to face. And then you can use your common sense and the guidelines here to decide whether or not it would be a good idea TO meet them face to face.
Again, your own common sense is absolutely required. If you don't use that on the internet, then you are at risk. But that's pretty much true for anything.
Here's a sensible progression:
1. Meet online, on a site like lesbotronic.com then . . .
2. Exchange email and/or internet-only instant messages for a while. (But we'd do at least a few longer emails, not only one-liner chat thingies, which are generally less informative.) If you enjoy that and she seems like your sort of person then . . .
3. Exchange phone numbers, talk on the phone for a bit. If that goes well . . .
4. Make arrangements including a SAFE CALL SCENARIO** and/or taking along a friend (preferably one whose judgement you trust) to meet somewhere at a mutually acceptable daylight public location with many spectators. Avoid consuming alcohol or any other mind-altering recreational drugs other than caffeine. If you don't feel really comfortable after one iteration of Step Four, feel free to repeat until you do, or terminate.
5. If all of that goes really well, only THEN consider taking the relationship with just the two of you to a NON-public location.
At each stage, take your time. No, we're not saying drag it out for months and months, but give yourself enough time to feel comfortable . . . like you're increasingly getting to know who you're dealing with, BEFORE moving to the next step.
There should be an appropriate and RECIPROCAL give-and-take of personal info. You should feel like you're getting some significant details about who she is and what she likes, how she spends most of her time, what sort of stuff she participates in locally, how she supports herself, what's most important to her, what sort of folks she has as friends, etc., and she the same for you.
Ask her plenty of questions about herself at each stage. These questions should not resemble a criminal interrogation, and you can easily avoid anything that's seriously personally invasive. (If it's a "therapist" sort of question, no, probably best not to ask that right away.) But it should be open season on general questions about her public day-to-day activities, her general background, hobbies, interests, education, general geographic locations, etc.
Give some thought to her answers.
A GREEN LIGHT
for the next step in the progression above would be a sense that she's open and willing to reveal not necessarily her innermost secrets, but the significant details of her public day-to-day life and personal history. She should also be equally as interested in yours, and seem more similar than not from one conversation to the next.
A YELLOW LIGHT
might be if some of the details she's shared seem inconsistent with her online profile and/or the other conversations you've had with her. No, we're not talking things that may have legitimately changed over time or something totally trivial, but something that isn't. Like, did she say she'd earned a Masters Degree in a particular subject at a particular university in one of your conversations, yet seem not to remember mentioning that or totally change the details in another? That might be a problem. Did she say she's totally single and lives alone, yet is never available for a phone chat between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following day . . . ever? That might be a little questionable as well.
A RED LIGHT
might be truly excessive vagueness or strenuous avoidance of supplying a direct and specific answer to a question about anything that really shouldn't be a big deal, like where she went to school, what general neighborhood she lives in, or hey, are you sure that was really just your roommate I overheard in the background during our last phone chat? Those are some general examples, but use your intuition here. Sometimes we're totally right about a WRONG feeling about another person without a terribly precise understanding of the why. Go ahead and GO with that feeling. And please, with any potential red lights, don't let your nether regions be your guide, let your brain do the talking. If you imagine there's something somehow wrong about a particular chick, don't meet her in person. If you don't just imagine but have legitimate reasons, please go review our FAQ and consider notifying us.
Depending on the commonality of your last name and/or the size of your urban area . . .
. . . you might not want to give out your last name until you feel more comfortable. (If your last name is Smith or similar and/or you live in L.A. or Manhattan, it likely won't matter.) We'd recommend this as an appropriate step after talking on the phone and before meeting in person. (Because, if you don't feel comfortable enough to share your last name, we wouldn't recommend meeting her in person anyway.)
You'll want to be pretty comfortable before giving out a home phone number if your address is publicly listed along with it. Less so for unlisted home numbers and cell phones.
You MIGHT need to be somewhat careful when discussing your job, especially if you don't live in a large urban area. Folks in urban areas probably only need avoid mentioning the extreme specifics of where they work before feeling comfortable. However, if you aren't in an urban area and you work for a company that does (fill-in-the-blank) and it happens to be the only such company within 50 miles of your town, that could be identifying in a way you might want to delay for only those of your choosing.
NO ONE you've met in the personals EVER needs to know your Social Security Number or ANY other financial information.
There are some background check services that will perform deeper checks, and they might need someone's SS# to perform one. If you and whomever you've met decide to collectively go that route before meeting in person, make sure the background check company is legitimate, then give your information to the company ONLY, let them serve as a go-between.
(No, sorry, we're not personally acquainted with any to recommend, and no, lesbotronic.com is not in the business of performing background checks.)
If the person with whom you're corresponding seems to think you should give them that information directly, assume it's a scam, end contact, and notify us (if you met them through this site). NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER give such information to someone who is still relatively anonymous to you.
On the other hand, you should probably be wary of anyone who refuses to provide ANY identifying info whatsoever.
As per the above, we are NOT talking financial or identity-theft-making-possible info like a SS# or mother's maiden name or a home address. We're talking NON-identity-theft-making-possible info like a full name, phone number, or place of employment. We're also definitely not talking about in your profile initially (we would NOT recommend that), but after an initial correspondence, a phone call or two or ten, and then prior to meeting in person.
In fact, we wouldn't meet anyone who refused to provide any of that unless we brought some friends along. And we'd still wonder what was up with all that secretiveness, and be looking at them a bit sideways.
Similarly, you need to provide some identifying details (non-financial) as well before meeting in person. Trust begets trust. Or it should.
If your willingness to provide one or two identifying and legitimizing details about yourself isn't met with similar even after the two of you have been in frequent and mutually enjoyable contact for a significant period of time and are discussing meeting in person, it's probably a red flag. Meaning, if a person is really who they say they are and not limited by anything significant but not disclosed (like a previously unmentioned husband), it really shouldn't be a problem for them to disclose who they really are just a bit with someone with whom they've become more comfortable before meeting in person.
**The Safe Call Scenario is a classic . . .
. . . recommended by folks all over the internet for all sorts of situations, and we definitely don't disagree with Everyone's Recommendation.
Here's how it works: If you are about to go on your first date with someone you met on the internet, you'll collect significant details on that person and on your situation: who you're going to be with, where and during what times you will be present there, that person's legal name, telephone number, email address, home address, workplace, any other significant details, etc. (Meanwhile, you should also offer up your own personal information in exchange, of course, so they can do their own Safe Call Scenario on YOU too.)
Then you'll share all of that with a reliable friend.
You'll make an arrangement with that reliable friend to wait for an "I'm doing fine, no safety problems here!" phone call at an EXACT time agreed upon previously sometime during your date. And actually, those words in quotes shouldn't be the only ones, you should also have an actual CODEWORD that no one other than your reliable friend knows.
If you do NOT make that call AND give that codeword, that means there is a safety-related problem or concern, and then the reliable friend will assume you are in significant danger. The reliable friend will then take MAJOR (that you may have agreed to in advance) steps to intervene to rescue your ass, including but not limited to bringing over a posse of dykes to check out your situation and/or your date and/or calling the cops.
The FIRST important portion of this is letting the potential date know that you have such a reliable friend backup/Safe Call Scenario prior to your meeting, so they know in advance if they mess with you in a way you didn't consent to being messed with, they're gonna be toast. (Also, if they were actually planning something non-consensual, they'll probably just drop you and pick another target.) Your potential date should be totally fine with it. Yes, this sort of thing can be a little awkward, but if you say it's a precaution you feel you must take not just with this date but with absolutely EVERYONE when meeting ANYONE from the internet in "real life" for the first time (or even first few times, if you feel you need that to feel safer) and it isn't anything at ALL personal, they should get fine with it really really quickly.
Your date should also "get" that you require this situation in order to feel safe and comfortable on the date, and they should hope your comfort will be the outcome. If your potential date is anything less than totally fine with your Safe Call Scenario, if they get seriously defensive, and/or really aggressively and repeatedly insist that your Safe Call Scenario won't be necessary in such a way that they aggressively suggest you should NOT do it, and/or get angry or hostile or offended that you suggested it, it's a RED FLAG. The alarm bells are now ringing loudly. ABORT! This person may not be who they said they were and/or their intentions toward you may be other than previously discussed. Don't meet them. Consider informing lesbotronic.com about this person as well (provided you met them on lesbotronic.com, of course), and give us the details.
The SECOND extremely important portion is making sure you picked a REALLY reliable friend.
The THIRD extremely important portion is making sure to ACTUALLY CALL that reliable friend at the EXACT appointed time if everything IS kosher, or all hell might break loose for all y'all. Recognizing the extreme importance of this third extremely important portion will allow you to avoid not only unnecessary police intervention and severe personal embarrassment, but also an interpersonal situation during which that very valuable and very reliable and very tolerant friend gets justifiably severely annoyed with your apparently unreliable and unnecessarily crisis-causing ass.
. . . . OK, we'll answer this probable question upfront because about a hundred women have asked already.
Truthfully . . . those of us running lesbotronic.com haven't ALWAYS exclusively used the ENTIRE Safe Call Scenario for a first date. But if you're asking us what we recommend? We recommend the ENTIRE SAFE CALL SCENARIO. We officially recommend nothing less. (Also, we'd like to again remind you that we are not legally culpable for any of the outcomes of any of your dating scenarios. Your adult legal choices are just that, your own adult legal choices as legal adults.)
However, we always met our internet dates for the first time in public, and ended the first date in public. We never ever went anywhere in private with anyone until we got to know them better in person. And, none of us ever met anyone in person/public until after exchanging quite a few emails, and then talking on the phone in such a way that verified most of the personal details the other woman shared.
While none of us ever had a problem, we probably would have done the ENTIRE SAFE CALL SCENARIO if we were dating men and/or a couple that included a man and/or if we planned to meet someone NOT in public for the first time and/or if we planned to do something BDSM-related on the very first meeting. (But we don't do that stuff and we wouldn't do BDSM during the first meeting, so those are not our issues.)
Is it a stereotype that dating women and/or meeting women you met on the internet for whatever purpose is safer than doing same with men? Yes. Is it true? Well, statistically speaking, in terms of who is more likely to commit crimes, it actually literally . . . is. However, while we're not familiar with any horror stories about meeting a woman for the first time in person after meeting her on the internet, we're sure SOMEONE out there is.
SO, if YOU want to be extra sure to be extra safe, implement a Safe Call Scenario with ANYONE. And that's WHAT WE RECOMMEND. (Thank you and goodnight.)