Meeting people online is a fairly common practice, and most of the time, it works out fine for everyone involved. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that online dating is entirely without risk. There’s always a potential danger when meeting people for the first time, especially if you’re inexperienced with online dating. Safeguarding yourself is the best way to ensure you lower the risks of something negative happening while still enjoying the company of matches online.

Always Keep Personal Information Off Your Dating Profile

Try to keep as much anonymity as possible when browsing dating apps online. You don’t want to disclose your first and last name in your profile, nor do you want to give away your address. The less information a stranger knows about you, the better off you’ll be. When entering a location (for proxy-based dating), keep it as generic as possible. Try listing a general area instead of a specific part of the city, and always avoid posting your address.

Investigate Who You’re Meeting First

Once you’ve started chatting with someone regularly, investigating a bit further may be in order. Start a background check to confirm that the person you’re talking to matches their history. Pay attention to the basic information listed in the report, starting with their contact information. Look at the address, city, and phone number—does it match the information in his profile? Background screens will scan public records for personal data, including marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and bankruptcy files. These screens will also produce a record of any criminal history on file for the name searched. While the occasional misdemeanor isn’t a big deal, look for patterned history of assault, theft, or dangerous charges.

Document Your Meet-up

If you’re planning to meet someone off a dating app, always give a friend or family member the date information. Include the name, phone number, vehicle information, and venue details. Always include the time you’re meeting up, as well as the time you intend to return. If the date goes longer than initially expected, check in with your friend by text or call. Should the venue change, continually update your friend with the new details, sticking with public locations and well-lit areas.

Always Choose Where You’re Comfortable

While it’s never a good idea to choose somewhere close to home, meeting in an unknown area isn’t the safest choice either. Choose a relatively populated location, especially if you’re anxious about meeting them for the first time. Ideally, you’ll want to choose an area of town that you’re familiar with, without being a regular place you frequent. Keep the first meet brief and light-hearted.

Always Bring Personal Items With You

It’s critical to remember your items whenever you step away from the table. Things like a purse, wallet, coat and cell phone are easy to have your information compromised. Even when you’ve spoken to someone regularly through chat and phone calls, you never really know the person until several months later. Keep your items with you while visiting the bathroom, and never leave your drinks unattended.

Trust Your Gut Instinct

Even when things seem to be going exceptionally well, don’t ignore an unexplained feeling of dread. Occasionally, we pick up on someone’s vibe or energy that sends us bad feelings. It’s essential to pay attention to your gut instinct and leave the date if you don’t feel safe. Should your safety be in jeopardy, talk to the staff at the facility. Explain the situation and ask them to help you leave the situation.