Several months ago, I wrote a piece on why people shouldn’t Google someone before a date — it prohibits natural conversation and discourse, I thought. However, lately, friends have revealed red flags they’ve found when Googling someone before a date, like finding out the person is married or has a criminal record and a new last name.
Once my mom started online dating and asking me for help (she’s not too computer-savvy), I became overprotective and started doing my own background checks on the guys who were trying to woo her with emoji roses — one of whom wrote and asked her to wire him $1,000. (Of course, he ended up being a scam artist, but she was about to meet him until that point! She had never Googled someone!)
On top of which, there are services, like BeenVerified, that do the work for you. It digs deeper than Google, discovering things like if someone is married or has committed a crime. “By giving users affordable and easy access to public records, individuals can make more informed decisions about those they choose to meet, so they don't get taken advantage of or lied to,” the BeenVerified site states. And it’s popular, with over 109,000 subscribers in the U.S. and an average of 10 million visits (!) to their site per month. That’s a lot of people digging deeper for answers.
There’s also an app called The Know, which is an anonymous social network that connects people (on the DL, of course) who are romantically involved with or interested in the same person — to uncover cheaters, serial players, etc. “Our mission is to create a safe community for the exchange of important information that will help people date smarter and avoid the wrong relationships, wasted time and emotional thrashing,” The Know's site says.
Man, it’s a scary world out there! I decided to ask Bustle readers what they’ve uncovered when pre-screening dates. If the below doesn’t motivate you to start Googling and researching dates before meeting them IRL, I don’t know what will.
13. Tom La Vecchia, Founder of X Factor Media, Age Range of Clients: 23-35
Should What We Find Be Dealbreakers?
However, even research isn’t always foolproof. Art Keller used to work for the CIA, then as a licensed private investigator. “One of the things I did when I had an active license was background screenings for a high-end dating introduction service (it cost $3,000 for a man to join and several hundred dollars for women),” he tells Bustle. “[There were] limitations of what one can find online because even with access to proprietary databases that the general public can't access, it was sometimes difficult for me to get a decent picture of whether the person I was researching was OK to date.” So, what’s a guy or girl to do?
“People need to keep in mind that background research is tricky and will invariably be incomplete. The main value is for obvious red flags. Name confusion is huge; lots of people have the same name, even with names that, at first glance, would seem to be uncommon. Also, Aziz Ansari says in his book, Modern Romance, if you start digging into somebody's background, you run the risk of rejecting someone for innocuous factoids you find, i.e., because they enjoy a radio show you happen to find dumb. I think this is a point well taken. It is hard enough to find decent romance without rejecting people based on arbitrary criteria, i.e., height, eye color, favorite movie, that actually say nothing about the person's real qualities.”
I agree. Keller also warns that people should not make decisions based only on online information. “Sometimes what you are looking for is not there, so you do have to pay attention to your instincts,” he says. “Online research helps, but it can only be a supplement to, not a substitute for, informed judgement.”
I couldn’t have said that better myself.
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