Safely Meet Someone Online

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Video Transcript

Marianne: I remember sitting in the bar at Bandera, waiting for a guy to walk in, and thinking, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?” after meeting him on Match.com. True, it worked out okay. We got married. But for some people, it can be a little, and for me it was, a little scary. So what can we do to make sure we’re doing this the right way?

Ryan: Well, you know, people can play a role online. You know, they can post whatever photo they want, they can say whatever they want online, and it’s a real easy place for predators to find victims, because they can reach out and get a bunch of people all at once. And so, what you want to do is be careful. If somebody posts a really great-looking online photo, you know, you want to make sure that they’re real because they could really look like that in real life. So, it’s so easy to lie on camera. I’m going to get rid of him. So one of the ways you can protect yourself is create multiple email addresses. Have one for your online dating, one for your shopping, one for your personal contacts, one for business.

Marianne: Not a bad idea.

Ryan: They’re free, so why not just create a bunch of them? And then you can manage the ones that you want. And if somebody turns out to be a creep, you just ditch that email address, you never have to hear from them again. You don’t have to worry about filters and all kinds of other stuff. Plus, these days, your email address is linked to so many things like your Facebook account, your Twitter account, all kinds of stuff, so…

Marianne: Maybe your bank account…you don’t know.

Ryan: So, once they get it, yeah, they could do some damage. So just protect your email address the same as you would anything else. Let’s say you got a phone and you decide you’re going to text back and forth, you’re calling each other back and forth, or whatever, and you want to give them some sort of way to contact you. Well, if you give them your actual cell phone, and it turns out they’re a creep…

Marianne: You’ve got to change your number.

Ryan: …you’ve got to change your number and then you’ve got to tell all your friends. So instead, this is called Burner App. What this does is it gives you a phone number. It costs between $2.00 and $5.00, depending on how much you use the number. But you get a phone number, you get texting, you get voicemail, and then if they turn out to be creepy, you just burn the number and it’s gone.

Marianne: It’s right there on your phone, so you don’t have to get a separate phone. It’s another phone number on your phone.

Ryan: And it manages those calls as they come in. It tells you what number they’re calling on so you know if they’re calling about, you know, a Craigslist ad or something or if it’s a date or something like that.

Marianne: Cool, cool.

Ryan: And you just burn it if you don’t want it anymore. The other thing you want to do is before you meet him, don’t just talk on IM and email. Make sure you get some sort of video chat or telephone call. It’s really hard for somebody to pretend to be 25 when you’re looking right at him, and go, “Dude, you’re not 25; you’re like 40, whatever.”

Marianne: That wasn’t around when I was dating. I love that. Okay.

Ryan: So video chat, at least a phone call just so you can talk to him and make sure there’s a real person there. And a 25-year-old doesn’t sound like this on the phone. So you pretty much can figure it out. Also, you can do a public search on them if you got their name and you’ve got their birth date, you can go to publicrecords.com, onlinesearches.com, and here you can find out all kinds of cool stuff: whether they’ve been married before, any professional licenses they have, whether they really are a lawyer or not, kind of cool. You can also go to a place called “People.” This is pipl.com. Just type in their name and you can find out all kinds of cool stuff. So this is me. I was like, “Whoa,” I really am 42, believe it or not. And then it tells you where I work, it tells you where I’ve lived, it tells you people I associate with, even my sister-in-law, which is kind of weird. It’s got my Amazon Wish List in here.

Marianne: So if you want to buy Ryan a gift, now you know where to go if you want to get him something.

Ryan: See, you get all kinds of stuff. But keep in mind that all of this information without context can be a little bit strange and maybe there’s something in there you don’t know. So if you do find like, “Oh, they’ve been married before,” just ask them about it. Don’t just automatically assume because what if it’s somebody else? There’s all kinds of Ryans in here that aren’t actually me.

Marianne: Right, right.

Ryan: So, don’t give out your work address. Don’t give out your home address. Don’t give out your school address. Find some place that you want to meet. And when you do decide, don’t just choose one place. “Oh, the Starbucks over on 42nd Street, that’s where we’re going to go.” Choose three places. That way, if your Starbucks is closed, or too crowded, you have an immediate backup, and you don’t have to look at them, and go, “Well, where do you want to go?” And end up going some place unsafe.

Marianne: And be sure to tell somebody where you’re going, too.

Ryan: Yes.

Marianne: Great tips. We’re going to link all those websites. Was there one we didn’t get to?

Ryan: There was. One last one. So you said, “Bring somebody with you if you can.” So this is bSAFE. You can bring somebody with you virtually. This is really cool. You would set a timer, and say, “Well, this date’s going to last about an hour. If I don’t check in in an hour…” it alerts all your friends and tells them that you’re not available. So there’s a follow-me feature, so it can track your GPS coordinates. So all your friends can see where you are.

Marianne: Great stuff. I love it. I’ll make sure we get that all in. No, I’m fine. No, he’s all right. He’s good, he’s good. Right, right, right. Well, there’s a date killer right there.Three’s a crowd. You can find out more by going to Nerds On Call. We’ve got the website linked to ours: gooddaysacramento.com. Go ahead and check it out under “Show Info” and today’s date. Good stuff. Thanks.

Ken: There you go. Nice idea.

Connecting with strangers over the internet has become a common practice in this day and age. Whether it be meeting a person from Craigslist to make a transaction, pursuing a potential relationship on a dating platform, or for business purposes through a site like LinkedIn; meeting a person for the first time after having connected with them through the internet can be intimidating. Due to the lack of personal references that you would normally have when meeting someone recommended by a mutual friend or connection, getting together with somebody you met online can be quite nerve-racking.

Unfortunately, the internet offers people a means of providing false information to others by suing things such as pictures of others, fake photos, or claiming exaggerated social status. It is much simpler to present a different person online than it is face-to-face. The internet also provides an easy forum for people with malicious intent to find victims that are putting their real selves out there, looking for a match.

In order to protect yourself while still being able to move a potential relationship or transaction forward, let technology work for you. Start by creating an email address when initiating contact, make one or two accounts that you can dedicate to online activity. If you ever come into contact with somebody who scares you or does something to creep you out, you can ditch that email address without losing any work or personal contacts or information. You can also use a disposable phone number without having to go out and buy one of those sketchy “burner” phones. An app called Burner App creates unlimited real phone numbers with local area codes that can be used in the pap for calls, texts, and voice mails. If you start getting suspicious activity on a certain phone number, you can dispose of it at the touch of a button. The organization tool included in the app groups messages by phone number so that you can prioritize personal texts or something like eBay inquires. The Burner App is free to install, but you have to buy credits in order to purchase a phone number to use for a certain amount of time. Prices start at $2 for a number that will last one week with 20 minutes of talk and 60 texts.

Disposable phone numbers

It helps to use technology to separate your online activities from your real life, but it is important that you do not rely on technology to shield yourself too much. Before you ever go to safely meet someone for the first time, be sure you call them on the phone. It is much easier to lie or give false information over text or email than it is on the phone. Somebody that says that they are 20 will obviously not sound right on the one if they are 45. Some people may not be in love with the idea of talking on the phone, but it still never hurts just to hear what they sound like and if they seem to be unnecessarily nervous or pushy.

In the case of online dating, it always helps to do your research before you agree to safely meet someone person. You can start by using a free public records search directory for things like birth records, marriage licenses, and professional licenses. You can also search the National Sex Offender Registry and, if possible, do a criminal records search. If you want to verify that a piece of information that they gave you, check out Pipl.com. Pipl lets you perform a quick data search by name alone and shows things like publicly available phone numbers, addresses, employers, and more. If you do find something that is fishy, keep in mind that data without context can be misleading. With that said, if you discover a potential love interest may be married and has not told you anything about it, it could be a red flag.

When considering a meeting place, there are a few obvious rules that apply:

If you still feel uncomfortable about meeting a person from online for the first time, bring somebody with you. Although you may not always be able to bring another person with you, there is an option for a friend or family member to tag along virtually. With the bSafe app, you can use the “Follow Me” function and set a timer for when you should be done. The app will then trace your steps and alert your friends or family members if you do not check in before the designated time. You can also invite friend to “walk with me” using your live GPS trace so that they know where you are at all times. bSafe can also get you out of an awkward situation with the “Fake Call” function. You can enter who you want the call to appear from, designate when you want it to happen, and the phone will ring looking like a completely legitimate call. The best parts about this app are the easy to use interface, and the fact that it is completely free, there is no charge for features that others may consider “premium”.

Easy to use interface

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.