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And if you decide to meet up in the real world, there’s unfortunately also a chance you could find yourself in physical danger.

You’re never responsible for the predatory or disrespectful behavior of others, but there are things you can do to protect yourself when you’re interacting with a stranger.

Unfortunately, someone who seems great when chatting in an app could be very different in real life. Drive yourself to the date or get a ride, but don’t have your date pick you up or take you home. Don’t leave your drink unattended, drink less than you would if you were out with close friends, and avoid staying out until you’re really tired. If you’re just messaging, you can simply stop responding and block the other person.

Many dating apps will let you unmatch and report problematic behavior.

But instead of giving your real phone number to someone you don’t know, consider using a Google phone number and forwarding it to your phone.

It’s pretty easy—once you log in to Google Voice, you can search by area code and choose an available number. Dating apps will sometimes show you when you and the person you’re talking to have mutual friends. Carrying a self-defense weapon is a very personal decision, but if it makes you feel safer, you may want to carry a Taser, pepper spray, or a knife.

Reevaluate what you’re sharing—even if you’ve got tight privacy settings, there’s the possibility that someone in your friend list could share information from your profile with someone you don’t know. At some point, you may want to talk to someone on the phone before you meet them in person.Once you pick a number, the instructions will walk you through the rest of the setup. Check in with those friends and find out what they think of the person you’re interested in. Get to know them, but don’t share too many details at first. You should be able to trust those around you to be respectful, safe, and kind, but unfortunately that’s not always reality. Keep a little bit of cash somewhere on your person so that you have money if your bag or wallet gets lost or stolen. In some cases, even a flashlight can make an excellent self-defense tool.The point of talking online is to get to know someone better, but it’s still smart to wait to share more personal details until you’ve met them in person. It’s smart to avoid letting someone know exactly where you live until you know them better. The first date is a great time to try out a coffee shop, wander through a museum, or chat over dinner and drinks. Take extra care of yourself when you’re out with a stranger. Let someone know you’re going out with someone new, tell them where you’re going, and set a time for them to check in on you and make sure you’re okay. Following the advice above can help you stay safe in the dating world, but if someone or something makes you feel unsafe, it’s your right to leave (whether you’re leaving an online conversation or an actual date).To keep things simple, we reviewed eight of the most popular apps and developed a basic checklist of features that can affect users’ safety, security, and privacy.See our metric definitions below the chart to learn more.

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