With hundreds of eligible men and women at your fingertips, online dating is a convenient way for busy people to meet others in their free time. An estimated 20 million people nationwide are doing it, including 31-year-old Caroline Wade. She's the owner of Caroline's Creations. “I work for myself so I don't get to meet people at work like a lot of people do. I don't go out a lot because I'm working a lot,” said Wade.
She considers herself very careful in choosing which men she goes out with. Her caution stems from the veil of anonymity the internet offers. “People can tell you what they want you to hear,” said Wade.
Earlier this year, a California woman was attacked by a man she met on Match.com. She later found out he'd been convicted of sexual battery. After the woman sued, the dating web site changed its protocol and started checking subscribers against state and federal sex offender data bases.
Some women are now taking extreme precautions. A local private detective says more women than ever are calling for background checks. “In the last few years we've experienced a huge increase in private individuals wanting to find out about people they've met online,” said Rocky Pipkin, of Pipkin Detective Agency.
Pipkin says he gets hundreds of requests each month for background checks. Surprisingly, he finds dirt on most of his client's dates, but it's usually because they already have a hunch the person they've met is lying to them. “Most people that come to us have got issues, and I'd say about 90% of the time we substantiate that curiosity, those intuitions,” said Pipkin.
One of his most recent and egregious cases may result in litigation. Pipkin says he uncovered a mountain of lies a man was telling a women in order to get her money.
“She has given this individual a lot of money. He has made representations that he is a licensed professional in a specific field and that he has several college degrees, and we found out those representations are false,” said Pipkin.
So how can you protect yourself from being taken advantage of? Match.com offers extensive dating safety tips which include:
Not all online dating stories are scary. Many end in relationships or even marriage. Some estimates are that one in six married couples met on the internet. “He was the first person I met and I was the last person he met,” said Lee Ann Hutchings, who met her now husband online.
They met about three years ago on eHarmony.
“I felt like it was a really professional way to approach the dating scene, a smart way, and safe way rather than just meeting someone out randomly,” said Hutchings.
Now the couple has a four-month old son, and couldn’t be happier. While their online dating experience was best-case scenario, they say beginning any relationship is a risk. “I don't think it's crazy for people to do a little more investigating. My dad and step-mom, she ran a credit check on him before they got married,” said Hutchings.
Meanwhile, Wade is still searching for her soul mate. For now, she's relying on her gut instincts instead of background checks. “If you have that doubt in somebody, if you're worried about that, then they're probably not the right match,” said Wade.
Pipkin's rule of thumb: “Trust buy verify and make certain that the wool is not being pulled over your eyes,” said Pipkin.