It was nerve-wracking. I was sitting in an Olive Garden restaurant waiting for my first-ever blind date. I probably would have never gone on a blind date but I was a single girl, in my early 30s, with everyone around me clamoring to get me married off. Sitting there I remember thinking, “I should have done an online background check on this guy.”
I know, that sounds weird, even paranoid. Who thinks about online background checks? But I’m not your typical single gal. As a jaded journalist and former police reporter I conducted online background checks all the time.
The Online Dating Controversy and Background Checks
Whenever I did a story about a teacher, an older mentor who worked with kids, someone running for the school board, I’d use the service my newspaper provided to conduct an online background check. Many people think online background checks are unethical. When legislators tried to mandate them for online Web sites in California, large online dating companies launched an all out war against them. They cried violation of privacy. But the danger is real.
As a former police reporter I read plenty of cases about women showing up for dates never to come home again. In Florida, a convicted rapist killed a 13-year-old girl who lived in his neighborhood. He was a listed sex offender, something that easily comes up on even the most basic online background checks. Even though I knew the danger, I never thought, in a million years about conducting an online background check on potential dates. That night I wished I had.
Online Background Checks Reveal What You Can’t See
When the date walked into the restaurant he seemed harmless enough. He was medium build, wore glasses and seemed reasonably dressed. Not my type, but pleasant enough. He didn’t look like a killer and I thought, no online background check needed. After all, he was referred by a mutual friend. She had done the checking out and found out he was single, had never been married and had a good job. Who needs an online background check when you have friends? Right? Wrong!
The conversation quickly turned to my job. I was attending a gun show that weekend, yes, I had a weird job. I’d been to several and I always found gun shows to be an interesting mix of cultures and a patriots. Oh, and they do conduct online background checks at some of them so I do feel safe. Anyway, I told him about the characters I met at these shows and he seemed interested in a sort of Freudian way. So I invited him to attend.
“Oh, no I am not allowed to be around guns,” he said. My eyebrows arched. If he had said, “I don’t like guns.” Or “Guns aren’t my thing.” I would have felt at ease. But it’s the way he said he was not “allowed,” to be around guns that had me wishing I’d just ran his name through an online background check.
O.K. so it was one warning sign. Ever the journalist, I became curious. We began talking some more and the subject of alcohol came up. It turns out there was also a beer fest that weekend, ironically in the same place as the gun show just on different days. I asked him if he wanted to go – I know I’m starting to sound like someone should do an online background check on me — a chick into guns and beer. But there wasn’t much to do in that town. Anyway he said, “I’m not allowed to be around alcohol.”
That was it. It didn’t take a genius to figure out this guy was on probation. As a police reporter I knew that people could not be into guns and they could not be into beer. But when they were not into both at the same time then an online background check would likely reveal a crime – most likely a felony.
So I stopped dinner right there.
“O.K., what were you convicted of,” I said. “And don’t lie to me because I will do an online background check on you in two seconds.”
It turns out my friend had referred me on a blind date with a convicted rapist. He claimed he was innocent, but that didn’t matter. A court of law had found him guilty. I managed to excuse myself and got home safely. But who knows what could have happened. To this day, years later, I’m still rattled.
Gain Peace of Mind
An online background check would have taken seconds and saved me months of uneasiness. I kept thinking he was going to call me or show up at my house. A quick run of his name, age and address would have gotten me everything I needed to know about him. In an age where we date people we’ve never met before, marry people we’ve only known online or travel with partners we’ve met through dating Web sites, isn’t an online background check worth the effort? I know it would have been for me.