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Meeting Up with People Online - Personal Safety Tips

The beauty of belonging to a local Bigfoot Group on Facebook is that it enables you to meet like-minded people around your area who have the same interest as you. It can be the beginning of a great friendship or it can turn into a complete nightmare.

This guide is a personal safety resource for anyone who is planning on meeting up with someone they have never met or they met online to go do Bigfoot research.

Although most of the safety tips provided below are practical, common-sense tips, they serve as a great reminder of what you need to be aware of when meeting up with strangers to go out in the woods. Women are especially vulnerable to attacks, and in most cases, cannot easily fight off a man. But these safety tips apply to both men and women because it could happen to anyone.

DO NOT MEET UP WITH PEOPLE IN THE WOODS ALONE UNTIL YOU GET TO KNOW THEM FIRST! We live in a chaotic world nowadays and don’t just blindly trust someone you meet online. Get to know them online for a while and look for ‘red flag’ behaviors. If they harass you or get irritated for no apparent reason, then that is a major ‘red flag’ and stay away from them. Take your time getting to know them because people will eventually show you their ‘true colors’. Don’t hesitate to check out their Facebook page and conduct an online search on Google to see if you can find any information about them, like an arrest record. The more you know about them, the better off you will be.

Tell friends or family where you're going, when you will be back, and who you will be with. This will allow them to know where to look in case they don’t hear back from you at your designated return time. Take a photo of the person and their vehicle license plate when you get there and text them to someone.

Trust your instincts. You know that feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when you think something is wrong? Pay attention to your ‘gut’, and act appropriately. Cancel the meet up if you are not comfortable with the situation.

Be aware of your surroundings and the person you are with. Watch what the person is doing AT ALL TIMES and keep your distance from them. It’s okay to leave if you need to and look over your shoulder to keep an eye on them. Criminals focus on the opportunity to attack, so do not make yourself an easy target. Also make an effort to stay away from thick bushes, dark areas in the trees, and brush which may be an opportunity for them to attack. Stay on wide open trails and be visible, as much as possible.

Carry a weapon of some sort. Mace, pepper spray, bear spray, knife, or gun are some good ways to protect yourself in case you get attacked. Keep your weapon close at hand so you can use it quickly if needed.

Have a backup plan. Do not hesitate to call your friends or family members at any time if you are feeling suspicious about the person you are with and give the person the ‘I have an emergency’ excuse to leave.

Always display an aware, confident attitude. Be always suspicious of them and make it obvious that you will do something to them, if provoked. Casually mention that you are carrying a weapon just so they know you mean business and can defend yourself. You can mention that it’s for possible ‘wildlife encounters’, but they will get the point. Don’t be shy and timid around them because your life could be on the line!

Always keep your cell phone with you. Be sure to fully charge your cell phone and keep it with you. Under extreme circumstances, you can use your phone to call for help. Equally important, the GPS tracking on the phone can help determine your whereabouts in case someone needs to locate you.

Keep your car keys handy and immediately get in your vehicle when you return from your outing. Criminals can easily attack you from behind when you are fumbling around looking for your car keys, loading your equipment, or getting in your vehicle. Once you get in your car, don’t forget to lock your doors right away!

When in doubt, bring a friend to tag along with you. The person you are meeting should not have an issue with you bringing a friend with you. Most people will understand the need for that. If they don’t and they give you a hard time, then leave the area immediately.

Block them from your Facebook account, Instagram account, or wherever you met them at online, if you are not comfortable communicating with them anymore or if they are harassing you.

Report the situation to your Facebook Group Administrator(s), so they can take swift action to remove them from the group and warn the other members.

Your personal safety is of utmost importance and do what you can to avoid becoming a victim of a crime! Enjoy your time out in the woods doing field research but please be safe out there!

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