True story – a girl in Idaho met a man online and they were hitting it off, but she was cautious, so she pestered him for personal information. At one point, he asked, “Why? Do you want to run a background check on me or something? You might find out I’m a convicted murderer.” She chalked the comment up to an odd sense of humor. Later, she did run a check, and he was. Moral of the story: it pays off to be careful.
There are several quick, easy, and effective ways to protect yourself before a first date, and screening your prospective amore is just one of them. By anyone’s account, that’s the obvious first step to take. Google is the first place we go when we want to learn more about someone we met, be it online or in person.
This can definitely help, as our Reddit story proves, but it can do harm too. For one, they might catch on to the fact that you’ve been looking them up. You risk putting someone with nothing to hide off. Alternatively, you will find information that you already know, like their social network accounts. If they have a common name, you might learn everything, only not about them, but a complete stranger.
To avoid these common pitfalls of Google searches, don’t bring up anything you learned about them in conversation. Also add more than just a name to your search. Enter their full name in quotes and add additional words, like “debt,” “crimes,” “divorce,” or “boyfriend/girlfriend.” Adding a phone number or email address to the search will reveal even more information. Ask what school they went to and include that in the search if they tell you.
Meet in Public
Choose a well-lit, busy spot for your first date, with which you’re familiar. Before going out, tell someone where you are going, with whom, and when you plan to be back. Arrange a video chat or at least call them before the date to make sure they are who they say, not a completely different person who is 20 years older to boot.
Check Social Media, but Don’t Stalk
A quick glance at a Twitter or Facebook account never hurt anyone. While stalking them on social media definitely isn’t a good idea before a first date (and at any other time), things they post and share could be telling. Their social accounts might reveal their hobbies and interests and help you see whether you have anything in common. Remember that it’s very easy to take something as trivial as a status update out of context, potentially ruining a connection with lots of potential.
Check Criminal History
Considering the majority of criminal records are public, this shouldn’t be hard to do. You need to know all the places they’ve lived in the past. If they’ve committed a crime, they’re likely to have done it in or around these places. Any convictions will be traced back to those as well. The person might live in your small town now, but he could have moved from Chicago, New York, LA, or another megapolis. You might not find a criminal record if they were convicted in another state or county.
You could say, “Just out of curiosity, have you always lived here in_______?” or “What’s your favorite place to go on vacation?” Don’t pry, though. They might start to feel anxious and clam up.
Keep an Open Mind
Being overly judgmental is just as dangerous as neglecting your safety. Dating can be disappointing. You might meet a person who cares too much about how people look, who’s rebounding, or who just generally isn’t all that enthusiastic about dating. You might meet someone who’s desperate. Because it’s a fact that you can meet just anyone, it’s very important to be careful. You needn’t do away with caution, but being optimistic and keeping an open mind counts too.