Internet dating is easy to participate in, while offering anonymity and a feeling of safety. Unfortunately, this may be a false sense of safety as it is very easy to lie about one\’s features (physical or otherwise) online and the same anonymity is available to everyone. Online dating services inadvertently enable disreputable users to create false names or identities. Some of these users may misrepresent themselves to the extent that they give potential dates a very distorted image. Online connections can be with anyone from a nice person to someone with a very suspicious or downright criminal past. Are background checks the way to avoid the undesirables?

Sadly, background checks are only as good as the people who perform them. If a potential suitor uses a false name, they may be difficult to track. Smart criminals can sometimes get around standard background checks. The questions then become: How much is enough? Free Internet background checks may not be exactly free. But is it necessary to hire a private investigator? Long before the birth of the Internet and subsequent Internet dating, people were being taken advantage of by “love predators”.

Next, WHEN do you run a background check? Before the first date? Just prior to getting physical? How do you get your potential, or even current, date\’s social security number? How do you feel about someone doing a background check on you?

These are the pros and cons of performing background checks on potential dates:


  • Criminals may be avoided
  • Users may feel safer


  • Smart criminals may survive standard background checks
  • Gives a false sense of security
  • Cost of online dating sites will go up
  • There is no easy way to verify marital status; marriage records are state-specific
  • There is no guarantee that a background check is being performed on a true, as opposed to a false, identity.

The Internet has enabled love and marriage to become easy prey for scammers and con artists. It is estimated that 55% of online dating profiles are bogus. Because of this, experts recommend background checks. But how does online dating differ from meeting someone in a bar, grocery store, coffee shop, bookstore or other venue where singles meet? Dating, like life, comes with no guarantees. Trusting anyone new comes with risks. Dating, particularly, requires enormous trust and may entail visiting less-than-ideal locations such as darkened restaurants, movie theaters or other such places, with near-strangers.

Many genuine, honest people connect on the Internet every day. Regrettably, growing numbers of criminals are also becoming increasingly cyber-competent. Facebook, and other, similar websites make it easy for evildoers to meet, cultivate trust and start relationships with unsuspecting victims.

The best way to prevent your becoming a victim is to trust your instincts. Never send money or personal information to anyone you haven\’t met face to face, and even then, proceed with caution. If something, or someone, appears too good to be true it probably is. And if there is even the slightest doubt, don\’t ignore it, move on. Better safe than sorry!

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.