Online Dating: Finding Your Match Without Being Duped

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 11, 2011

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Valentine’s Day is a holiday for the lovers. It can make some reflect on the fact that they are lucky to have love, and it can make others reflect on how difficult it is to find love. Fortunately for those still looking, finding a match has gotten a lot easier now that the world has online dating, at least according to some. This may be true, but if online dating has made it easier to find love, is has also made it easier for online predators and liars to find you.

Little Fibs and Big Fibs

Online dating sites generally forbid their users from fibbing about themselves. This makes sense: the websites want you to find a mate so that their success ratings go up. If you lie, it’s unlikely that any subsequent relationship will end up flourishing.

Though lying is against the terms of service, many people do it anyway. For women, the most common lies are about their weight and build. Men fib about their income and their height. These are little lies that can easily be uncovered upon actually meeting someone, and can easily be overlooked if there is a true connection.

The bigger lies are the ones that can really get you into trouble. For example, pretending that you are single and looking for love online when you are, in fact, married. Not only is this considered morally despicable by many people, but in some really egregious cases it may even be actionable in court! One married man in New York was sued by two different women after he falsely claimed that he was single and proceeded to carry on relationships with them. They sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress for “mind games” and behavior that was “outside the boundaries of human decency.”

Background Checks and State Regulation of Online Dating Services

Only on rare occasions does lying on an online dating site actually hurt someone. But dating sites also allow online predators easy access to unsuspecting victims. There has been at least one case of a serial killer who found his victims on common online dating sites like match.com. Thus, while it’s very important for users to be able to trust dating sites, they must also be wary that not everyone is who he (or she!) says he is.

Some online dating sites deal with this problem by running background checks on every person who applies for membership on the site (but note – MOST do not!). The background check covers both criminal and civil databases, so not only will people convicted of certain felonies be banned from the site, but also married people. It’s definitely worth your while to see what kind of protections your site of choice has put in place.

Furthermore, some states have passed laws to regulate online dating sites. New York has a new law that requires sites to post safety tips for their users. Meanwhile, New Jersey requires paid-subscription dating sites to inform their users whether or not they perform background checks.

Before the Whirlwind Begins, Exercise Some Common Sense

Human instincts are very powerful, and online dating takes away your ability to use those instincts to vet potential dates before you meet them in person. Try to get a potential date to video chat or talk on the phone before actually meeting up with him or her. Also, when you do meet someone in person, go to a public place and be sure you have a friend who knows where you are.

Yet human instincts are not infallible. Some of the most notorious criminals in history were charismatic and good-looking, and their ability to gain the trust of their victims was the reason they were such successful criminals. So help yourself out – besides running internet searches of the people you meet online, consider ordering a private background check as well. Most services will charge a small fee to run a criminal background check, but it may be worth it to set your mind at ease.

Beware though, just because someone lacks a criminal background doesn’t mean he or she is not dangerous. Many dating sites have said that the reason they do not do background checks on their users is because they don’t want to instill a false sense of security. In the end, using a combination of instincts and common sense caution is the most secure way to proceed with online dating.

The vast majority of people on online dating sites are neither liars nor predators. This Valentine’s Day, many harmoniously matched couples will be celebrating together. While it is much easier now to find love, it’s still very important to be honest and on your guard.

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