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.