Online dating websites purport only the positive: Romances being kindled and developed through them.
In my world as a private investigator, many of the clients I see in the online dating world have broken hearts and a lot less money in their accounts.
Our case of the week involves “Sara”, a San Diego, California ophthalmologist. She has a successful practice, but she’s not so lucky when it comes to her love life.
Sara had met someone on a dating website. It all started as they generally do with pleasant exchanges, a few stretches of the truth and then some outright lies. He initially agreed to fly to San Diego and stay in a local hotel. He suggested that their first date be at the San Diego Zoo. Dinner that night only if she felt some chemistry. They talked for about three weeks.
Then she got the call. Her new friend needed just a short “bridge” loan until some soon to be coming client checks arrived. Unfortunately for Sara, she fell for the #1 mistake we see in these cases: Sending money to a person she’s never even met.
She sent her beau $20,000 – supposedly to help him with his dying, cancer-stricken father. The money was wired into an account that we determined no longer existed.
Sara had us run a name and address check on the subject. We determined that he was not in our system. Not being in our system is very difficult to accomplish, as you typically have to be actively living off the grid to do so.
Here’s what we found out:
• His name, address and all identifying data was phony.
• His phone was a prepaid calling card with no link to him personally.
• He did everything online through a Russian Internet company called Yandex.com.
If Sara had hired us to do the name and address search before sending him money, we would have advised her that the subject was a fraud, and that she should move on.
Sara’s not alone. 95% of all our online dating clients (both male and female) contact us only after they have done something they regret. Only a very few contact us before they travel to meet their soulmate.
Think of all the time, money, vulnerability and emotional investment you put into a relationship. A basic background check (that only costs a few hundred dollars) is nothing compared to what you stand to lose.
Another big mistake we see is when someone actually gets on an airplane to travel to the hometown of the other party. Never put yourself in this position.
If you want to meet someone, have them travel to you and meet in a public setting.
Before you meet them, you really shouldn’t be shy about getting identifying information: the person’s full name, home and work addresses, date of birth, or even a social security number.
If the sparks are there, get this information, contact your local private investigator, and spend a few dollars to verify the subject’s identity.
If things develop to a serious point where marriage is being contemplated, you should consider a full background investigation on the subject, male or female. A personal profile and comprehensive report on a person can be accomplished from $495 to $950. The price difference is contingent on the number of indexes that are accessed by the private investigator.
Make sure what you pay for includes the civil and criminal indexes along with the U.S. Consumer Public Filing Index. The latter will give you a financial picture of the person including bankruptcies, notice of defaults, judgments, tax liens and problems with the IRS. This is good stuff to know – considering you inherit all their liabilities right after you walk down the aisle.
Sara learned her lesson, but unfortunately she learned it the hard way. Always investigate before you invest, be it with money or your emotions.
Fireworks in the air and sex on the beach.