You don’t need to know how your next Bumble date spent Christmas in 2017.
But in the age of online dating, it can be helpful to know whether the person you’re about to get beers with has been arrested eight times for drunk driving. Or if you’re being scammed by a Tinder profile that was created for a person who doesn’t exist.
I’m not advocating for spending hours digging into every aspect of your date’s life. On the second date, you don’t need to know their parents’ names. Sometimes, however, spending five minutes online can answer some basic questions about the person you’re interested in.
“You should always check someone out, it’s just the world we live in,” said Sammie Swearington, CEO and chief private investigator at True Lies Investigations. Some of Swearington’s clients pay her firm to conduct background checks on romantic interests they met online.
There’s a fine line, however, said Jessica Small, a licensed therapist and dating coach at Denver-based Growing Self. Digging up information online gives you facts without context and leads you to create an inaccurate impression of them. It’s important to allow yourself to get to know someone slowly over time.
“If you find something from three years ago, this might not be an accurate representation of who they are,” she said.
It’s more efficient to meet someone (safely) in person to see if you even have an interest in them before you spend an hour Googling their name, she said.
Take basic precautions like meeting in a public place and telling friends where you’ll be and when they should expect to hear from you. Most importantly, don’t disregard your gut feelings about someone, she said.
“If you have alarm bells, trust those,” Small said.
As a journalist — and one who primarily covers criminal justice — I always do a little research on the people I’m dating. Here are a few tips to conduct a simple check on someone you’re interested in.
A simple Google search
Typing someone’s name into the Google bar can open up a wealth of information — if you know how to search.
I like to start with a simple search of their first and last name in quotation marks and the city they live in. If they’re recent arrivals to Colorado, you can also try the town or state they last lived in.
If you don’t have their last name, try their first name and any other information you have: a company name, a college, the industry they work in. If they feature a social media profile on their dating account, you can look at those posts for more ideas for keywords to search.
This is a good way to check 1) whether this person exists in real life and 2) whether they’re telling the thruth about basic life facts.
There are a number of websites that will conduct an online background check for a few dollars, but Swearington recommends against using them as they aren’t always accurate.
Court and arrest records
In Colorado, criminal records can be searched online with a name and a credit card.
CoCourts.com allows you to search a person’s name through criminal and civil court records across the state for $10. This will show you any felony and misdemeanor criminal cases as well as divorce proceedings and lawsuits filed in state court. This search can also tell you whether anyone has filed for a protection order against your future date.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation maintains a database of all arrests that can be searched if you have a person’s first and last names as well as their date of birth. CBIRecordsCheck.com will show you every time a person has been arrested even if they were never charged in a case. The CBI also maintains the state’s searchable sex offender registry.
The inmate search on the Colorado Department of Corrections website will tell you if someone is out on parole.
Run a reverse image search
Think the person you matched with is too hot to be true? Or are they refusing to meet up?
Try a reverse image search with their photo to see if they’re real.
On the Google homepage, click the camera icon in the search bar. (This works best on a computer.) Then upload an image from your date’s profile into the search engine. The clearer the photo the better. This will pull up any websites where that image appears. If they’re not real, they likely stole their pictures from somwhere on the internet.
Another simple way to suss out whether you’re getting catfished is to try to talk with them on the phone or by video chat, Swearington said.
“If they don’t want to pick up the phone, that’s a huge red flag,” she said.