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People finder and background check websites: staying safe when online dating

Online dating
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Consumer background check services use public records to inform subscribers about the kind of information that's out there about any individual. 

Unfortunately for those concerned about the privacy of their personal information, this is bad news, even though these records are public by law. But there's a silver lining: having all that information at your fingertips can be useful especially as our interaction with strangers on the internet increases in frequency. 

There are a number of uses for people finder services. For example, if you often buy and sell online, you may want to check out who will be coming to your home before you let them through the front door. 

But perhaps the best reason to sign up for a consumer background check service is online dating. In an age where we're meeting up more frequently with blind dates, it's important to stay safe, not just physically, but financially. People looking for love, especially older folks, tend to be more susceptible to scams by con artists trying to swindle them out of hundreds and thousands of dollars. 

Online dating and people finder sites

People finder sites such as Truthfinder, Instant Checkmate, and BeenVerified use public records to put together profiles of almost every individual above the age of 18 in the United States. Public records can include anything from criminal and trial records that can be pulled from a courtroom, to any past and present addresses on file as indicated by your subscriptions and deliveries. Essentially, they are repositories of information that circulates in some way, whether is has been bought and sold or if has been digitized by a county. 

Particularly sensitive information such as credit card numbers and your Social Security Number are not included in these profiles: they are not legally considered to be public information. 

People finder sites and consumer background check services are permitted by law, and you can use them to your advantage if you're looking for love online. 

Before meeting up with someone you clicked with online, you'll probably check their social media profiles. But there's only so much you can deduce from this sleuthing, and who knows if anything on this person's profile is truthful. That's when people finder sites come in. 

By searching a name and age or state of residence, you can find out the following:

  • Contact info such as past and present addresses and phone numbers
  • Any known aliases or nicknames
  • Any possible relatives or associates, such as neighbors
  • Criminal and traffic records, such as parking tickets
  • Any record of bankruptcies
  • Known jobs and education
  • Social media profiles
  • Any known assets

A person's unedited profile can reveal information that may make you second-guess your affections. For example, if you find your date's hidden social media profile and find language and content that makes you uncomfortable, you may feel safer cancelling your date. Alternatively, this information may reinforce your liking for this person: maybe you have more in common than you initially thought!

However you choose to use people finder websites when online dating, there's usually more information out there than you realize, and it's never a bad idea to err on the side of caution when meeting up with total strangers. 

People finder site information

When looking up someone on a people finder site, it's important to keep in mind that some of the information may be outdated, inaccurate, or associated to the wrong individual. If your date has a very common name, and there's someone else in the same jurisdiction who shares that name, some records may have been erroneously associated to your date. If you feel like digging a little deeper and confirming the information you find on a background checks site, you can usually consult physical records in person, depending on the county. 

You may think it's overkill to subscribe to a service just to check up on your new flame, but when you see the amount of information available, you may find it difficult to continue going on blind dates without all of those records at your fingertips.  

Remember that the amount and type of information available may depend on the service you choose and the county you're in. 

Criminal records

You're unlikely to meet anyone who is willing to divulge their criminal history before the first date, but with the help of a people finder service, you can be aware of any criminal records (if they exists and have been digitized). From there, you can decide if you want to meet up with this person or not. While it's not necessarily a disqualifying fact for some, for others, it depends on the crime allegedly committed. 

Social media profiles

Social Media

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter profiles are only the tip of the iceberg. There are a multitude of other social media sites that can be connected to a name you search, including any registered web pages and domains. This can provide a more complete picture of your date's persona through additional pictures, status updates, and overall online presence. From there, you can decide if this is a person you want to go out with or not. 

Bankruptcies and liens

Because online dating scams are becoming more and more common, you can perhaps anticipate whether or not your date will try to scam you by performing a people search on a consumer background checks site. Often, these profiles will include public information on any bankruptcies or liens in your date's name, and if they start asking for money early on, you may have a better idea why. 

Reverse address and phone number search

This can be a particularly helpful service when you decide to go out with that person you met online. If they provide a phone number, you may be able to verify who truly owns that phone number. 

Similarly, for addresses, you may be able to find who truly lives at the address of the meeting place you agreed on. Google Maps can only tell you so much about the neighborhood and the owners of the property. 

People finder site search tips

If you've started using a people finder site for online dating purposes, chances are you won't immediately find what you're looking for, especially with the potential of getting erroneous results. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • If you can't find your date's profile on a people finder site, broaden your search: try different past states of residence or ages.  
  • Try reverse searching a phone number to find the right profile, if the service is offered.
  • If your date has a common first name, try different spellings of that name. 
  • Your date may have several profiles associated to their name, so check all results that may apply. 
  • Cross-reference the information you find with your date's online dating profile. 

How to stay safe on a blind date

In addition to searching for social media profiles and public record information, and educating yourself about dating scams, choosing a dating platform judiciously is highly recommended. We've tested out ten online dating sites to find the best one. Overall, eharmony proved to be the most thorough in regards to the amount of information required to create your profile. Check out our review of eharmony as well as our rundown of the best dating sites out there right now. And before you go on a date, check out our handy tips on how to protect yourself before and during a blind date.  

Best people finder sites

If you decide that subscribing to a people finder site for the purpose of online dating, check out our review of the best background check services