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Online Dater Convicted of Assault

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I spend most of my days helping singles find love online. I am an advocate of online dating, but most importantly, I believe in dating safely, both online and offline.

On Tuesday, a man was convicted of assault on a woman he met online. It's a horrible story and it could happen to anyone.

The importance of online dating safety should be at the top of your list if you're single or if you have children that are dating. It's time once again for me to put on my education advocate hat and list some online dating safety tips to ensure this doesn't happen to you. It may seem like common sense, but after a drink or two, your judgment will be impaired.

"The best defense against a tragic encounter is you," says Hemanshu Nigam, Founder of SSP Blue and a cyber safety expert. "Every time you plan to meet someone you've only met online, think of it as your first meeting ever - keep it public, keep it visible, and make it known to your friends."

Top 5 Dating Safety Tips for Singles Looking for Love Online.

1. Always meet in a public place. In this case, the woman was scheduled to meet her date at a restaurant after communicating online. He text messaged her prior to their date and asked her to meet him at his apartment to watch a movie and have pizza. She should have said no. Going to a strange man's apartment is a recipe for disaster. When the movie was over, he raped her.

2. Let a friend know where you are going. I believe you should always tell a friend who you are going out with on a first date. Provide the screen name, site you met your date on, and the name of the restaurant. Check in with your friend during the date. Let them know you are fine, or if you are uncomfortable, just leave. You don't need to explain why you are leaving.

3. Don't give out your home address or phone number. If your date goes south, the last thing you want is to have a stalker at your door. Never give out your home phone number or let your date know exactly where you live.

4. Don't talk about finances. Conversations with someone you are meeting for the first time should be light and friendly. Don't reveal banking information or let them know if you are about to receive a large bonus or an inheritance or you might find your date has ulterior motives.

5. Trust your intuition. Your instincts are usually good. If someone is changing plans last minute, take a rain check. If the conversation goes in a direction you are not comfortable with, change the subject. If you remain uncomfortable, politely exit.

Accepting late night dates with someone you don't know is simply risky. There are a lot of singles online that are looking for casual sex. If this is not what you are looking for, take your time getting to know someone and make it clear that you are not interested in a casual relationship. Remember that you are meeting someone you only know from behind their computer screen. Better to be safe than sorry.

Related article: How Safe is Your Date

Updated on November 10, 2010 with quote from Hemanshu Nigam