While online dating is a fun and rewarding experience, some ground rules of and common sense will help you stay safe.

  • Wait to divulge personal information, such as your address or phone number, until you feel secure about the relationship. You might open an anonymous e-mail account, in which your real name isn't visible to the people you send mail to, at first just in case it doesn't work out.

  • Watch for warning signs--inconsistent information about marital or employment status, disappearance for long periods, refusal to answer direct questions, etc.

  • Make sure you're being honest yourself--practicing honesty will encourage honesty in others. If your partner catches you in a "white lie," he or she might think exaggerations are okay.

  • Talk on the phone before meeting in person to learn more about your potential partner's social skills. For the first phone calls, press *67 before you dial to block your number from showing up on caller ID.

  • Meet for your first few dates in a public place. You should also tell a friend where you're going and when you'll be back. Request a photo of your date in advance so you know what to expect when you meet in person.

  • Above all, trust your instincts. If your gut tells you something isn't right about your partner or the relationship, pay attention.

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