There I was: a divorced, single woman looking for love.
I did what millions of people do. I opened up my phone and downloaded a few dating apps. Swipe, swipe, message, message — and now I’ve got Friday night plans with a super cute guy in tech that has a gorgeous dog.
But who is this super cute guy in tech REALLY? Well, I know his first name and I got his phone number … but is he hiding anything that might be a deal breaker? Is he married? Does he have some weird pet rock collection? Is he an internet troll? Nah, his profile said he’s not looking for drama. I’m sure everything’s fine.
We all know that meeting people online these days is just about as easy as ordering a ride to the new swanky restaurant you’ve both been dying to try, but we fail to make sure that the person we’re talking to checks out. Why isn’t researching your date an automatic part of our online dating routine, like exchanging pictures and making sure we have things in common?
Because sometimes, that super cute guy in tech is actually an alleged bank robber, out on bail, and awaiting trial for said crime.
True Life: I almost dated a bank robber.
Let’s back up a hot minute before I found out that my date with the gorgeous dog had spent five months in jail that same year. Prior to messaging him, I had been serial dating and found that so many men were lying to me about something on their profiles. The lies varied in size and scope: they were ten years older, they were still married, they had kids they didn’t mention, or they had very different political beliefs than I had.
Each time I would sit across them on the date as I was fast discovered that the person I’d met in real life wasn’t quite who they had presented themselves as and think, “Julie, if you had only done your due diligence and crept to the end of the internet on this person, you wouldn’t be sitting here wasting your damn time.”
So I finally made a vow to myself: from now on, I’d check out who my date was before I made my way to some restaurant and spent another night sitting across from another person that omitted information I could’ve found out in advance. Even though I had developed a sophisticated method to vet my dates, the search still needed my own two eyes on it; sadly, there was no one I could ask or pay to run an electronic footprint check on him to spare me from this necessary exercise.
Okay, back to that alleged bank robber I just mentioned.
I also found his wedding registry from the year before that listed his wedding date (which was to be the day after his arrest, so I assume she left him when he went to jail, or else he wouldn’t be dating). Did I mention his family runs a security company?
I was shocked by what I was learning about him online and I decided I needed to know more. At this point, what did I have to lose? I decided to call him out on this and when I snapchatted the news link to him with a “WTF”, his first question to me was, “How did you find my last name?” I told him he didn’t need to worry about that. His second question was “So I guess our date is off?”
Yep, genius, our date is off.
I saw an opportunity here though. All dating sites say some version of the same thing: “Get to know the person you’re talking to before meeting them in real life. Do your research. Verify they are who they say they are.” But what if you don’t know how to research your date or have time to? “People Search Bars” feel like a scam and are usually filled with outdated information, and no one is going to hire a Private Investigator at $100 an hour for a coffee date. Especially not if they’re out there going on multiple first dates over several months.
So I took what could have just been a disappointing and disorienting episode in my own dating life and decided to turn it into a positive. I seized the opportunity and started an approachable and affordable company that investigates the people you meet online. We set the standards of sleuthing and believe that no one should be left in the dark about the people they’re meeting (in a well-lit, public place, please).
In the on-demand age where millions of people are online dating, we should at least be armed with the confidence that the person we’re meeting for drinks and getting our hopes up over is who they say they are. It’s too easy for a predator to fake their way onto any site and prey on people with good hearts who are sincerely just there to find love.
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Since I started the company we’ve found catfish, ex-convicts, sex offenders, married people, financial scammers, etc. And though it stings to tell a client there’s a serious red flag with their possible paramour, this is a situation where ignorance isn’t bliss.
I learned from my own dating experiences that there are a lot of good people out there looking for love, but there are also a lot of predatory, less-than-honest people who are looking to take advantage of those in the dating world.
Instead of throwing my hands up and writing my experience off as a frustrating part of the game, I decided to start a company that’ll change the nature of the game and makes it much harder for the bad actors out there to pull one over on us.
Julie Nashawaty is a writer who focuses on love and her dating experiences. She is the Founder and CEO of Aste, an online investigation site aimed at helping people date safer.