Whether you’re a full force power-dater or just a part-time romantic, the single largest and most recurring pothole on the road to love is identity. It’s truly the key piece in determining whether a prospective partner is worth the time and potential heartache. It’s in the nature of man (and woman) to conceal unappealing aspects of himself, and the information age makes it all the easier for people to distort who they truly are. Luckily that same technology offers many tools to help you root out the truth.
Online dating is a billion dollar industry annually according to Statistic Brain. It’s an almost even split between the genders (men account for 52% of use) and it can actually work. The same study reports that 20% of current committed relationships had an online origin. But with so many people, you can certainly count on there being a few (or millions of) bad apples.
Why The Deception Occurs?
One of the problems with people not being forthright in online dating is just how easy it is to lie. It’s as effortless as accepting the latest terms for iTunes, and it only serves the purposes of the liar. It challenges people’s thirst to assert themselves as who they wish to be, and that’s a difficult temptation to refuse.
The justification is usually something like ‘Just let her get to know me, then she won’t care.’ Problem with that argument is that it robs the other person of being able to make a fact-based decision about who they want to see. And while the fudged details may not be of much import, what they represent can be far more telling. To initiate a lie at essentially the ground-breaking ceremony of a relationship does, in fact, say a lot about someone.
A newly-released book on the subject called Investidate was written by former crime reporter Maria Coder. She’s crafted her shoe-leather skills into a useful guide for both genders that goes beyond lurking around in someone’s friend list. “I did it to help people avoid the cheaters,” the author tells the New York Post. “The liars and the really dangerous people who are out there. There are so many people out there who are just criminals and bad guys — and bad women. I wanted people to avoid the physical and the financial dangers of dating.”
You don’t have to skim too far into recent headlines to know the type of threat she’s referring to. Cases like The Craig’s List Killer and countless Romeo-conmen spotlight the need for due diligence when cyber-shopping for a sweetie. These cases of course represent the extreme side, but even in instances where the only risk is a broken heart – that too is a steep price to pay.
That’s what’s ultimately called for. Applying the same construct as when buying a used car might not be a bad idea. There are, after all, a lot of lemons out on the road – so by all means crack the hood. Sticking with that metaphor, mileage is an easy lie. How many guys can effortlessly misrepresent their own age or dating history? It might be part of the Y-chromosome. Some guys will roll that odometer back a decade or more. Shameless. Not that girl’s can’t fudge measurements just as easily – and that’s the whole point.
So let’s explore the type of information you will likely want to get at, and where the getting is good. Right off the bat, one big concern is an arrest record. While there are no shortage of sites out there that will run a criminal background check, there are certainly some free options at your fingertips.
Most larger metropolitan police departments (and some smaller ones) now allow you to search their arrest database from their website at no charge. If you know a person lived in Chicago and Dallas – that would be your first step, their respective PD’s. However since crime doesn’t stop at the city limit, neither should your inquiry. Also check the area Sheriff’s department site, as these usually cover entire counties. Sheriffs maintain the jails, and if someone spent any time in lock up in that area (no matter which PD made the bust) it will likely appear on their search. One problem with this is that many departments scrub their online data after a few years, much like a credit report. This is where a full criminal check is called for – especially since it’s so inexpensive. It’s basically the cost of an appetizer.
Work History & Job Standing
Confirming a person’s professional identity is another important marker. Career status and salary say a lot about a person’s drive, maturity and outlook. They are also common topics that people chose to exaggerate, if not flat out fabricate. The many corporate networking sites usually also provide only what they’re told, so more digging is called for. Go right to the source for starters- their employer’s website. That may or may not work, depending largely on how detailed the site is. Hopefully it can at least confirm employment through a staff directory. You can also perform message boards searches of both their name and the company’s name together, as this can lead you to a paper trail of answers.
Most jurisdictions have a clerk of deeds, or in some areas a registrar of deeds – and much of that information is now publicly available online. This will provide proof of ownership in real estate. This might sound like gold-digging, but there’s a more noble side. This can help you determine if a person lives reasonably within their means, or if they look more like an albatross of credit debt.
Also remember that social media now allows us to explore deep into the past, gauging someone’s character beyond the immediate. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can provide a much-needed glimpse into true life. Through pictures, friends, interests and quotes – you can practically build an FBI profile on the subject. Knowing a person’s dating M.O. (modus operandi) is easier then ever through their digital footprints. This can often provide a hard, honest look at the subject.
If you aren’t into doing the messy work yourself, you can rest assured that many sites now provide this service for a fee. One such site is DateFaxx.com – which makes a powerful point with their initial pitch: ‘Transactions of the heart often prove more costly than a transaction from the wallet.’ That’s really hard to argue with, and highlights the value many people rightfully place on knowing who you’re dealing with. These can vary from simple database searches, which is what a basic background check consists of, to actual feet-on-the-ground private dicks. Make sure whichever route you chose to go with an experienced provider with references you can confirm.
It’s always a good idea to go with a service that carries some credibility. The National Association of Professional Background Screeners, or NAPBS has for years been providing employers with a reliable spot check of applicants. Now anyone can access that same level of comprehensive scrutiny for non-employment purposes. Another trusted name is US Search, which is one of the few to become BBB-accredited. While more extensive searches can cost a bit more, the basic background checks at sites like these start around $20.
The type of information you can expect from most identity sites include an overview of the facts, which can help confirm birthplaces, relations and work history. They also will typically provide a comprehensive criminal check and financial sweep, looking for credit and bankruptcy issues. They are also able to detect civil matters raised against someone, which are often overlooked in standard criminal checks.
In some situations the risks are high enough to take it to the next step, which is actually retaining a field investigator. This is usually only reserved for scenarios where real questions of identity or character are raised. This effort can easily cost thousands of dollars, and requires a serious cost/benefit analysis.
A major problem with most standard dating sites is how little information is confirmable directly from their platform. Again, pretty much every piece of information offered up on a person’s profile is something they themselves have constructed. That’s just asking for trouble. There’s also the very real problem of con artists actively using dating platforms to prey on people’s loneliness.
Cyber-dating expert Julia Spira (conveniently located at cyberdatingexpert.com) encourages people to do basic Google searches on a prospect’s name and phone number at a minimum. She also recommends using a separate phone (like Google’s free GVoice) just for dating. However, according to her site, these precautions shouldn’t sour you on the whole concept. “At the end of the digital day, there are a lot of terrific people joining online dating sites.”
The Guilt Factor
A problem many encounter when considering online sleuthing is a sense of guilt they experience for being untrusting. However when you bring someone into your life, you are ultimately connecting them to the other people you also care about. The protection isn’t just for you – and taking extra steps should make you feel better about your decision, not worse about yourself.
Identity is important. It’s who we are – and most certainly determines where we’re going. Having a firm grasp on a person’s true character can be an absolute necessity in many cases. Not having it has cost countless others far too much. In a world and an age where truth is fluid and facades are easily erected, perhaps it’s no longer permissible to take things at face, or even webcam value.
1. Double confirm their identity through social media
2. Watch for glaring contradictions, red flags
3. Check area police, sheriff website for arrest history
4. Discover their dating M.O. through social media
5. Remain somewhat detached until knowing who your are dealing with
Karla Stephens-Tolstoy, Tokii CEO & Founder
A business and brand maverick, skilled in building start-ups and building brand management teams in North America, Asia and Europe.