Know what to look for. Try as the might social media platforms can not protect themselves from containing fake accounts.  One of the best ways to tell if it’s a fake is to look and see if they are tagged in the photos or posts of other people. Even people who aren’t super active on social media are occasionally tagged by someone who is.  It is relatively easy for a fake profile to collect friends, so friend count isn’t always a good indicator.

Protect yourself. Make sure that you have your accounts as private as possible on the given social media platform you are using. Even if you have, what you feel is, an immediate connection with someone, remember that they are, in fact, a stranger.  Do not divulge too much personal information such as your address, place of work, or names of schools or other places you frequent.

Do your research. Google the person to see if you can verify facts they’ve told you.  Google has a feature not everyone knows about called Search By Image where you can see if their profile picture can be found anywhere else.

Take your research a step further.  After some chatting you are really starting to what to meet this person consider a background check.  If this person really cares about you then they will be totally understanding if they somehow discover that you ran a background check on them.  Remember you can never be too careful!

Meet as soon as possible.  Once you are ready to meet in person do it sooner, rather than later.  Secrets are easy to hide when hidden behind a screen, meeting in person eliminates the doubt.  Your first few meetings should be at a public location, where you feel safe.  Drive your own car and meet them there.  If you are nervous about it have a friend nearby.

Take it slow. If the person declares their undying love for you prematurely or requests sexy photos that is a sure sign that this person might be unstable. Don’t fall too fast for someone you have never met, until you are 110% of who you are falling for.

Don’t be afraid to make someone uncomfortable. If someone is pursuing you online, you have every right to ask as many questions as needed to put your mind at ease. If something is hard to believe then don’t be afraid to ask for proof.  If they don’t want to then chances are it is because they can’t.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If their profile lists them as a model or if they are constantly boosting about their money or success, there is a decent chance that they are lying.

Be honest with yourself.
If your gut tells you something is “off” about this person then listen to it.  Don’t talk yourself into taking a chance on something if something in the back of your mind is trying to warn you.

Tell your friends about the relationship. Share a few details with your closest pals and ask them if they can identify any red flags that you may have missed.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Always.

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