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Background Checks: The New Dating Trend

Thursday, October 21st

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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Background Check Service FAQ

The information provided by a background check is determined by the service you select. Common details include traffic offenses and arrest records, known addresses and phone numbers, property ownership and court cases. Some of the more thorough services even attempt to track social media profiles and look for the individual's presence on the Dark Web.
That also depends on which provider you use to run the check. Most services make it more affordable to pay for a month of access than to run a one-off report. For example, one service charges $29.95 for a single background check, but $29.89 for a month of unlimited reports! You can take advantage of the longer subscription terms to research to your heart's content!
There are lots of reasons you might want to do a background check. Maybe you're in charge of a membership list that has outdated information and you need to track down the new contact details for a few people. Or you might be curious about your new neighbors and want to get some insights before you reach out (though, honestly, that might be a little creepy!). Background checks can also give you some peace of mind if you're into the online dating thing, to make sure that seemingly nice man or woman really is who they say they are before you meet in person.
Usually just a few minutes. You'll enter the information you have, like name and any known addresses, and then you might be asked to provide other details or confirm preliminary results as a match.
Absolutely! It's a great way to determine what someone else might find if they check YOU out! It can also give you a heads-up if you're going to have a background check done for some official purpose, like applying to be a foster parent or for a job that requires one. If you find something in your results that's inaccurate, it gives you time to get it fixed or to prepare an explanation for your agency or prospective employer.
Yes. You may not use consumer background check services to gather information to make decisions about tenant screening, insurance, employment or consumer credit. These all require FCRA-compliant platforms, which typically involve the consent of the person being screened. If you need a background check for any of these purposes, be sure to choose a service specifically designed to be legal and compliant.
This varies widely by service. Some providers really go to great lengths to return accurate results, while others seem to just scour the internet and dump every remotely-possible match they find. It's a good idea to read reviews and check out a background check provider's reputation before paying to run reports.
Most of the time, there isn't. However, many background check services give you a free trial, ranging from a day or two to a full week. Who knows, you might even be able to get the information you were looking for in that timespan and not need to continue on as a paid subscriber!
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