The truth about background checks for dating
Even though I have an online dating service that requires, well… actually begs!, that members voluntarily provide a self background check for the US, I’m also the first to admit that this does absolutely nothing to prevent things from going wrong from time to time of subsequent connection. Nor does it guarantee that nothing bad has happened in the past.
Don’t get me wrong, background checks are a valuable resource when it comes to deciding who you want to spend time with, as well as for a host of other reasons. Employers, landlords and even some homeless shelters routinely run background and credit checks on applicants. But they are also required by law to obtain the consent of the person about whom the report will be provided. In other words – you can’t just decide to do a full authorized background check without consent and other identifying information, such as a social security number.
So what’s the difference? The difference is this – without at least a date of birth and social security number to run the report against, you really have no guarantee that your results are for the right person.
Of course, there are lots and lots of companies online that market their wares to the general public and offer background check reports. And they are perfectly legal. But before you order one and pay for the results, you should review the fine print of who can and can’t use these services. For example, most say something like “please click here to confirm that you will not use the results of the report to make rental decisions or to extend an offer to rent a property…”. Why? Because without personal identifiers, there is absolutely no guarantee that you are renting or renting to the right person.
This is not the only problem with background checks! Almost every state refuses to designate someone as a felon if that person has been arrested but not found guilty in court. What does this actually mean? That means someone can be arrested over and over again, but if they’re never convicted, no one who files a report will ever know — even with a social security number.
Another obstacle is that some states simply refuse to provide any public information about criminals in their state without any search warrant.
Anyone can request a background check. This is perfectly legal and much more accurate as the person can provide personal identifiers such as social security numbers and dates of birth and is the only reason I ask my members to provide a background check instead of doing it myself from their name.
So – you have a date set up, the guy seems lovely, you’ve been chatting for a month and you can’t wait for the weekend to come and enjoy a nice dinner and get to know him better. Hopefully you both carry your own reports (I know, I know – it’s a tough way to start a relationship, but unfortunately society has come this far and I personally don’t see that changing in the future), but is that any kind of guarantee?
Unfortunately no. All the report will show are all the crimes he was found guilty of. As I said before, he may have been arrested many times for maybe domestic violence, but if the charges were dropped or he was found not guilty – you never know.
The only crime you can be sure you will be warned about is that of a sex offender. Whether he is convicted of raping an adult or fondling a baby, his picture and record can easily be found in any online sex offender database. You can easily identify the person with complete certainty only because of the mandatory photo for these databases.
What happens to other major crimes? This is actually a scary thought. Years ago I had a roommate who met someone in a supermarket. They got engaged. A great man – everyone loved him. But we were in a big social circle and one day she ran into someone who pulled her aside and informed her that Pete had been married twice and both times the wife had simply “disappeared” and he had suddenly amassed a lot of money. I know it sounds like a Lifetime movie, but…luckily, she decided to hold off on the wedding until she was more comfortable, and ended up breaking things off when he asked to take out a huge insurance policy on her right before the wedding. A keynote? Squeaky clean!
So what’s the motto here? Just be careful! Go with your gut. And listen!!! Love is blind, but your friends aren’t. If you keep hearing over and over that the person can’t be trusted, or hear rumors about them… Hear them out! Trust me – they are not jealous and they are not trying to hurt you. They could save your life!
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