09 Aug Should Dating Websites Require Background Checks?
Internet dating sites are an increasingly popular method used by individuals seeking to meet potential matches. There are various sites, such as match.com or christianmingle.com, which span a broad range of services, including linking people who are looking for casual experiences as well as long-term relationships or marriage.
Some individuals have enjoyable experiences and find true love, while others find the opposite—physical violence and emotional tragedy, even rape or murder.
Who (or what) bares the responsibility when a match made via an internet dating site becomes dangerous or tragic?
Case In Point:
Earlier this year, a 40-year-old registered nurse was found murdered and dismembered in her home. The suspect? A man she met online through match.com who, unbeknownst to her, had an extensive and frightening criminal history. After dating this man for approximately one month, her life was cut tragically short. The case is now in court, because this horrific situation begs the question: Who (or what) is responsible for her death?
Is the victim at fault for making a poor decision? Or is the dating site to blame for not putting in place the necessary background checks to ensure member safety?
Internet Dating: What You Should Know
The promise of a connection is alluring, and many sites advertise the potential for “true love.” While being a matchmaker is certainly noble, the main goal of these online sites is to make money. More members translate to more money.
Dating sites are primarily unregulated; there is no formal or mandated procedure for screening and cross-checking potential members. Algorithms—rather than humans—match profiles. It is unlikely that an actual human being would read through thousands of profiles and then conduct the appropriate background check in order to distinguish the honest from the deceitful.
And so, even if a member is honest about a criminal background or sex offender status (“Hi, I’m Adam John, and I’m a sex offender”), it is questionable whether the computer would flag the profile as dangerous before sending it to potential matches.
Conducting Your Own Background Checks
The anonymity of the internet makes it easier for people to exaggerate the truth about themselves. Members can lie about their:
- Physical appearance;
- Religion; and
If there is initial deceit, the truth is usually exposed during the in-person meeting or date. It is important to be proactive and protect yourself by putting your own security measures in place.
- Meetings should always be in public. Do not go to a person’s house or meet in private.
- Always tell somebody before you leave on a date, and include who you’ll be with and where you’ll be.
- Send a copy of the date’s online profile to friend or family member.
And the Responsibility Goes To…
The advertising for these sites make it look like someone will definitely find their true love, and people are so desperate to find matches, they typically don’t do their own background checks. Although the sites have disclaimers, there are some things you can’t disclaim, such as the fact that they don’t vet all potential matches.
Unfortunately for site users, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel—you may get a match, you may not. This lackadaisical approach to investigating backgrounds could expose site owners to significant liability, especially if the site promises to be safe. Sites may allow convicted criminals, especially sex offenders, to solicit unsuspecting users on a dating site. Do they really do any background checks?
If you have had a bad experience with a dating site, you better call Saul at (212) 363-7701!