I recently reported a story where a woman was raped by a man she had met in an online dating service. She was from Orange County, he was from Oregon (first red flag). While cases like this are the extreme, it pays to keep your security and safety in mind when using the online dating sites. Bad things can happen in any given social situation. Whether you met the guy online, in a bar, or through a friend, you need to perform due diligence prior to agreeing to going out on a date. While everyone knows how to “Google someone” (running their first and last name through Google search engine to see what pops up), there are a few other tricks you can use if you suspect anything from the guy/gal you just met. Here are 5 protips on how to investigate someone online:
1. Obtain as much information as you can, then Google it.
Take their email address, online dating screen name and any other bits of personal information you can find and run it through Google. Then run it through Yahoo and Bing search engines. Sometimes Google will pick up what’s known as a “cache” of certain online dating websites. A “cache” is simply a snapshot of what Google saw on a particular date. In order to view the cache, simply perform your Google search for information on your potential date, then look down below where it says “cache”. Click on it to see what Google saw on any given date. Human beings are creatures of habit, and as
2. Chat messengers
Human beings are creatures of habit, and as such chances are their chat messenger screen names as well as their online profiles are the same. If they belong to any online forums (where you can post anonymous message under a user name) they might be using the same screen name. A friend recently reported that someone compromised the security of her computer by pretending to be a man whom she met in one of the “freebie” online dating services. He quickly wanted her to get onto a chat messenger so he could “send her pictures of himself”, and when she did she unknowingly gave the man access into her computer by allowing him to “direct connect” to her computer via the chat messenger.
3. Courthouse Records
After performing a Google search on your potential dates information, and you still aren’t satisfied everything is Kosher, you can always check local courthouse records. Many courthouses (and more than a few jails) will allow you to search their databases using the persons first and last name. Sometimes, the courts will require a docket number or case number. I know of a courthouse in Georgia that lets you search by first and last name as well as shows you recent pictures of the inmates incarcerated.
4. Hire an outside company.
Most of the services out there that you can perform background checks cost money. Some of them allow you to “sniff” a name to see if there might be any information on them. There are other sites that have a direct connection to certain databases and allow for a Department of Corrections Record Search.
5. Go undercover
This MAY be a bit underhanded….but if you STILL aren’t convinced that the guy you met is on the up-and-up (who me, listen to my gut instincts?) then you can always try to contact the guy that you met under a different screen name and pretend that you are someone else. I spoke with a police officer a few months ago and he told me that scammers usually have the same m.o. from victim to victim. It is very likely that if the person you are talking to has ulterior motives, then they will most likely not remember the same story/details that they gave you. All it takes is a few minutes of work, and a quick fake picture pulled from Google Image Search and you have yourself a fake profile. Contact the guy again and try to get into a conversation. See if the stories he told you, match up with the stories that he is telling your fake online persona. Check with your local authorities as this technique is a bit underhanded…..but highly effective.
You are probably thinking to yourself “Only dummies and idiots get scammed online“. I’m not going to post the actual link, but I participated in a security exercise a few weeks ago. I would consider myself highly internet savvy and know all the tricks that are out there and how to avoid them. Within the first 5 minutes, the company that ran the security exercise had gotten me to unknowingly give them my email username AND password. It wasn’t until after the fact did I realize I had been taken. Luckily, none of the information was saved and I came out of that experience with a very red face, kicking myself for falling for that trick. Without going into great detail, the security company had played upon my emotions (and knowing that human beings while online can be a bit impatient) and that’s how they were able to get me to reveal my password in a matter of 60 seconds.
Your gut instinct is usually your best instinct. If the guy you just met for a date seems more nervous than he should be….you might want to investigate that a little further.