Do you remember that made-for-TV movie in the mid-80s called “The Deliberate Stranger” about Ted Bundy? Mark Harmon played Bundy, and he scared the living crap out of me. He was even nominated for a Golden Globe best actor award for that performance – as TED BUNDY. Honestly, after seeing that movie, I had a hard time picturing Mark Harmon as anything other than a woman-strangling serial killer/rapist. Poor guy. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice man.

I was talking to a male friend recently about the Ted Bundy factor in a woman’s dating life. The ole bait and switch. It was a concept that was somewhat foreign to him as a man. But we women have to be super careful about the men we meet, especially with the popularity of online dating these days. I realized I’ve probably met some men from online a little too soon.

But what is too soon? It’s different for everyone. And you kind of have to trust your gut. But there are some general guidelines surrounding safety. Some of these might be completely obvious, but we tend to forget when the attraction hormones take over and turn what is normally a functioning brain into a ball of misfiring horny synapses:

1. Talk to him on the phone first. No, like actually TALK to him. Texting doesn’t count, as much as you want it to. Added bonus is you get to see if you can actually hold a conversation before the humiliation of sitting across a table from a potential dud. This isn’t fool-proof for weeding out a true psycho, but it might help. (An aside: One time I chatted with a potential suitor on the phone, and he was reeeeallly weird. I later told him I changed my mind about meeting. He kept calling me over and over, with me sending him to voicemail until he finally gave up. Glad I got out of that one.)

2. Tell a friend details about your upcoming date. That means details about the man you’re about to meet and the time and location of the date. That way, you at least have a starting point.

3. Always meet in a public place on a first date. I would do this for the first few dates, actually. It takes awhile to really get to know someone — and, of course, it’s always a risk, because you never know what might be lurking under the surface for years and years. But that doesn’t mean we should sit it out!

4. Google him. OK, I always kind of thought this to be overly paranoid, but what the heck? You may not be able to discern if he has victims tied up in his basement, but you could at least maybe find out if he’s married and has five kids.

Heck, even getting to know a man you met at a bar a bit more before a first real date isn’t gonna hurt. Well, perhaps in the “darn, I thought he was a nice guy” way, but at least you avoid getting strangled. Getting strangled on a first date would suck a lot.

So, the chances of actually meeting a serial killer on your dating adventures is like a million to one. I don’t mean to scare anyone. But a few simple preparations can help you dodge some potential bullets. So, go forth and Google, ladies. Google like you mean it.