Here are some tips, given recent news:
1. Don't ever ever give out your full name or street address until you actually meet the person concerned. Otherwise your risk a stalker.
2. If all your communications have so far involved text or pictures then use the phone. The phone will tell you at least the sex of the person, and possibly the age. It isn't 100% reliable on sex, and maybe 50% reliable on age, but it will tell you intelligence and articulation.
3. Talk on the phone at least two or three times before meeting.
4. When you meet, make sure it is in a public place, that you can check out the person concerned before you approach her or him, and if it isn't obviously safe (cafe outdoors) tell someone you are doing this. Agree to call your friend after the meeting to say you're ok.
5. Just DON'T travel long distances to meet people unless you are willing to take the risk of profound disappointment.
6. Remember people lie. About age, wealth, intentions etc. Let's take some stereotypical examples:
- Poorer, unemployed men will lie about employment status and prospects. Their inability to communicate fluently will out them;
- Older desperate women will lie about their age. Carefully consider the language they use about culture, life and how reluctant they are to send a photo. Out them by saying age doesn't matter, and if it works then decide if you prefer to say "but honesty does";
- Very keen young women will lie about their age, in the other direction. Out them by saying age doesn't matter, then let them down gently;
- Horny men will lie about how they just want to get laid. They wont expend much effort on you if you string them along, but could be fun to tease by finding out how perverted they are;
- Almost all men want to get laid. The difference is whether they want your mind and heart as well as body;
- Horny men pretend to be women to talk to lesbians online and get their photos, and will evade giving new photos or talking on the phone. That's why the phone is useful;
- Desperate men will pretend to be interested in just about anything to get attention. Probe answers about interests and pastimes to see what there is in it;
- Desperate women will flirt and act slutty excessively, just to get attention, but men probably like that;
- Married and attached men (and women) will pretend to be single, or divorcing, or breaking up. If there are regular times you can't call (nights, weekends), odds are you're the bit on the side. Ring at that time once, unless you want to be the bit on the side.
7. The better the online photo the less likely it is to be true. Ask for a photo to be taken in a certain context, i.e. wearing clothes mentioned, or with the car.
8. If you're sceptical, use a phone or number that you can surrender (e.g. old prepaid mobile) in case the person proves to be a disaster.
9. Be strict about honesty. A person may be a bit shy about some things at the start, but if they haven't owned up to major discrepancies within a week or so, then toss them to one side.
Finally, be realistic. The internet has the whole range of people of the world on it. It will be a numbers game or a matter of being discerning, but by and large most people aren't that imaginative or creative. First above all things, to thine own self by true.