Should Dating Sites Require Background Checks?

It’s no secret that there are kooky people in the world, and those kooky people seem to gravitate to the Internet. My theory is that those with ulterior motives relish the anonymity of the web, which allows them to lure in their victims more easily. I can see why they’d appreciate that. It’s easier to lie online.

There’s no body language, no intonation in one’s voice, and no emotional connection to the other person. It’s harder for a person’s sixth sense to connect with an avatar.

The Internet provides a great cover for predators.

In Connecticut, State Representative Mae Flexer introduced a bill designed to make online dating safer. “Sexual predators now have a new tool to find victims — Internet dating websites,” she told the General Law Committee.

And in Texas, State Representative Diane Patrick, is proposing that online dating sites be required to disclose to members whether or not background checks are done, which she believes would make online dating safer.

Online dating sites argue that people should use common sense, and point out that not all background checks are entirely accurate. What if the person’s profile is made from stolen information in the first place? The fact is, online dating sites are selling a lot more than an opportunity to connect. They market to the public, inviting them to find love using their website. And they give users an air of legitimacy by default. Posting a profile on a mainstream dating site implies a certain level of credibility.

Background checks would be a good start, and can often provide someone with all they need to make an informed decision. But they may also create a false sense of security and cannot be relied upon completely, especially when people lie about their identity.

Dating sites could incorporate another layer of protection, such as checking the computer used to create the profile in the first place. Device reputation spots online evildoers in a fraction of a second, by examining the computer, smartphone, or tablet used to connect to the dating website or social network. If a device is associated with unwanted behavior, such as spam, online scams, fake profiles, bullying or predatory behavior, the website can reject the new account or transaction. If the computer or smart phone passes the first test of not being associated with unwanted behavior, further identity and background checks would be performed. If the device does not pass, there is no need to pay for further checks.

According to Jon Karl, Vice President of Marketing at iovation Inc., “We stop 150,000 online fraudulent activities every single day. At one of our international dating clients’ websites, one out of five profiles created are found to be fraudulent. We help protect their brand and keep their members safe by identifying the bad actors upfront before they have a chance to come in contact with legitimate members.”

That being said, it would be a good and prudent practice for any online dating site to further vet and screen users. It won’t keep all the bad apples out, but it will significantly reduce those who are currently using the system for no good.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses Safe Personal Dating on Tyra. (Disclosures)

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