Dating online has become a fact of modern times. Compared to the old ways people used to meet each other, there just isn’t a replacement. But the Internet being what it is, it’s also a world fraught with potential drama. People can pretend to be anyone and anything, criminals and predators can stalk online, and anyone can catfish or ghost anyone else at a whim.
Background checks are a natural defense for safety in online dating. And, we should caution, not only a good idea for women dating men, as even men can be preyed upon or taken advantage of in various ways. Online third-party services make it easy to run a background check discreetly. All you will typically need to start is a full name, date of birth, and location.
Personal Background Checks
There are legal differences between personal background checks and the kind typically done for landlord tenancy, employment application screening, firearms purchases, and other official purposes. As one person doing a background check on another, you’ll be limited to publically-available information. Specifically, this will not cover:
- Driving records
- Some criminal history prior to seven years ago
- Juvenile records
- Full credit report
- Minor infractions and civil violations
For a rule of thumb, anything you would need a social security number to reveal won’t be on a personal background check.
What a Dating Background Check Can Reveal
Marital status – This is one aspect where we’d all like our partners to be honest.
Major criminal records – You’ll want to pay attention to felonies, sex offender status, and domestic violence charges. These are obvious red flags. Depending on your preferences, you might be concerned about substance abuse issues too, like DUIs and narcotics offenses. Most states keep public mugshot records as well.
Cursory credit information – Major events such as bankruptcies and liens can be uncovered. While personal credit scores and general credit ratings aren’t revealed on private checks, some financial activity is a matter of public record.
Social media activity – This can be either a major source of information or a complete blank, depending on how active the individual is online. There’s also a matter of whether they cloak their online activity or freely share their lives on a major social network. You might have to take their online handle to Google to get further information.
Precautions and Advisories
If you’re using background checks to vet potential dating partners, you should do this at the step before they know too many personal details about you, in case you uncover something that indicates your safety could be jeopardized.
Social media is an especially suspect field to check because there are so many variables that could impact it. Maybe your potential partner is highly security-conscious and doesn’t share too many details for privacy reasons. Or they could be operating under multiple online aliases. Still another possibility is someone with a grudge against your subject, who could create copycat profiles to smear their reputation or go around posting libelous statements about them.
While some people may see running a background checks on a potential dating partner as intrusive, just about anyone will have to be realistic about the kinds of things that can happen with modern Internet dating. Partners should be willing and forthcoming with at least some information if they’re interested in dating you.
What If You Uncover Something?
The choice is entirely up to you on how to proceed if you found out some unsavory details about a partner. Depending on the situation, you could bring it up with them and offer them a chance to explain themselves.
Keep in mind that mistakes do happen. Your potential partner might have been the victim of identity theft, or been in a mix-up involving mistaken identity. Studies have shown that as much as 25% of the population has a mistake in their credit report, for instance, so take online records with a grain of salt. In some cases, a record may mistakenly exist that was supposed to have been sealed or purged.
You’re also free to simply cut your ties and move on. If there are obvious red flags in a person’s background, they likely know about them and were trying to hide them. Or they could have thought they were “no big deal.” In matters of love, everything is up to subjective preferences.