Online dating profiles are written with one purpose in mind –attracting the attention of potential partners. Whereas commercial marketers are required to abide by truth in advertising laws, dating site users are not. You can be certain their negative traits, personality quirks and criminal records will never be mentioned. This can be dangerous for other dating site users, especially if the individual in question has a history of violent behavior. In this case, you could be putting more than your heart on the line; you may risk your very life.
Some states, including Illinois, are seeking to change this. They want to make online love connections safer for millions of dating site users. In Illinois, the Dating Disclosure and Safety Awareness Act would require dating sites to disclose to their customers whether criminal background checks are run on site members before they are allowed to contact potential dates.
Dating services claiming to run background checks would need to review criminal court records and sex offender registries, or utilize background check services like Advanced Research Systems to screen the histories of participants. This would most likely increase dating service fees, but many users feel that is a small price to pay for a little piece of mind.
The legislation would also require online dating sites to post safety tips for their users. While this information is mainly considered common sense, heavy-hitters such as Match.com, eHarmony.com and Ture.com already offer this type of advice. As of April 2011, Match.com was screening users against the national sex offender registry. According to their website, eHarmony.com does not conduct background checks of users at registration.
True.com does screen its members against a criminal database. However, they advise users to remember that background checks are not a guarantee of safety. All criminal records are not public in all states. Sex offender databases may not be up to date. Convictions or arrests made in foreign countries will not show up. And –perhaps most important– there are still many potentially dangerous individuals who have yet to be caught committing a crime.
If you choose to participate in a dating site that does not prescreen members with criminal background checks, consider commissioning one of your own. A background check service, such as Advanced Research Systems, can verify your potential date’s identity and marital status as well as look for a criminal record. Sure, meeting your match may take a bit longer if you take the time to conduct a background check –but the best things in life are always worth the wait.