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Background Checks: The New Dating Trend

Dating can be a scary experience, no doubt about it. But add to it the uncertainty about the history of the person you've just agreed to go out with, and it can be downright terrifying.

Particularly in the world of online dating sites, more and more people are conducting background checks on potential dates before ever agreeing to dinner or a movie.

Seem like overkill? Think again. Let's take, for instance, the case of the "Craigslist Killer." The case involved 24-year-old Philip Markoff, a medical student at Boston University who used the popular Craigslist site to lure women to a private meeting place, where he robbed them and, in one instance, committed murder.

Markoff isn't the only such case of dating gone wrong. In June 2012, Bensalem, Pa. resident Danielle Mehlman died after suffering multiple stab wounds from a man she'd met on an online dating website. That man, Pawan Kumar of Wilmington, Del., checked into a hotel with the victim and then stabbed her to death.

News outlets are full of stories such as these; so many, in fact, that it might be enough to scare a person into never dating again. But such extremes are not necessary if a background check is first conducted on a potential date.

So how do you go about conducting a background check?

In this day and age, it's very easy to Google a person's name to see what pops up. Many states post arrest and conviction records online, making it very easy to access them without ever leaving the confines of your home. Arrest and conviction records are public, so access to the information is usually free. A quick check of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook also can provide a sense of the person's behavior and morals. If you see a Facebook page riddled with party photos or questionable comments and content, it should be the first sign that this person may not be a good choice for a date.

But Google and Facebook don't always provide a complete history of a person. If you feel the need to go further than what you can find in public records posted online, there are several agencies which offer background checking services at a reasonable price. For fees ranging from $14.95 to $39.95, you can order a comprehensive background check on anyone. All that is required to conduct a background check is a person's full name and address.

Many online dating websites have realized the importance of conducting background checks and now are offering the service to clients. With over 40 million Americans using online dating services, the agencies have decided it is in their best interest to provide a safe user environment. In 2012, three of the most popular online dating sites agreed to begin conducting background checks on all users: Match.com, eHarmony and Sparks Network (which operates JDates and ChristianMingle). The big three are now checking for histories of sexual assault, identify theft and violence before allowing clients to create profiles and begin using their services.

While it is reassuring to have the option of conducting a background check, keep in mind that information that is obtained may not always be accurate. Cases of mistaken identity do occur, so any information you find during a background check should always be verified.

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