As effective as online dating is, it can also be pretty dangerous.
We’re potentially going out with strangers we know absolutely nothing about.
Nothing aside from their name, picture, and phone number—but even so, how sure can we be whether they’re not catfishing?
Luckily for us, there are dating apps that have taken safety measures to protect their users.
One of those safety measures is background checking!
– What is a background check and why is it important?
A background check is a process in which a person’s identity is verified; their public and private records (e.g. criminal records, employment history, education, etc) are viewed.
I also mentioned criminal records, which a lot of sites don’t have access to.
According to criminal record statistics, over 80 million (1 in every 3) US adults have a criminal record; as of 2023, 33% of US adults have one.
That’s an alarmingly high rate of criminal convictions.
The chances of coming across a person with a criminal record on dating apps or sites are higher than we might think.
Numerous cases of people getting sexually assaulted, kidnapped, and murdered because of dating apps have been reported.
A lot of people have lost their lives while trying out dating apps/sites—their perpetrators being the person they matched with.
If dating platforms offer background checks, then that would handsomely decrease the chances of coming across a potentially dangerous person.
The worst can be prevented if such sites take appropriate measures; luckily, some sites do background checks on users.
Here are 7 dating sites or apps that do background checks on users:
The non-profit platform, Garbo, allows us to search public records such as arrests, convictions, and sex offender registries.
I tested it out and found that if you want access to Tinder’s Garbo feature you have to
- Tap the blue shield icon in the top right of the app;
- Tap on Safety Center;
- Tap Tinder X Garbo;
After this, you’ll be provided with a guide on what Garbo does and how it works.
You will then be redirected to Garbo’s page, and from then on, you can fill in the necessary information to run a background check on a match.
If any dangerous background surfaces on a person, Tinder encourages its users to report them to prevent other people from matching with the same person.
Note that the two first searches are free, and all the background checks after that cost $2.50.
Also, keep in mind that this feature may prove ineffective because not every dangerous person is reported.
Considering the dangers that are prone to happen in the digital era, it’s great to see dating and socializing networks take the initiative to protect their users.
Another dating site that provides you with a background check is match.com.
Match was launched in 1995, and ever since then, its popularity grew increasingly.
Match is the first dating site ever created, and as we can imagine, it has a large number of users—around a whopping 30 million.
So safety and privacy concerns of course arose.
To better ensure users’ safety, Match has also teamed up with Garbo to offer background checks whenever needed.
Similarly to its sister company, Tinder, Match offers Garbo’s services in its safety center.
At first, you’ll be provided with a short guide explaining what Garbo does and then redirected to the Garbo page.
Match x Garbo requires limited information to run a background check, such as a name and phone number.
However, to better pinpoint somebody, we may be asked for additional information such as age and location.
Similarly to Tinder, the first 2 searches are free, and the rest need to be paid for.
Garbo offers low-cost background checks to people; it collects public records and reports of violence, abuse, convictions, arrests, harassment, restraining orders, and other violent crimes that put one’s safety in jeopardy.
Bumble has an excellent ID verification process that makes it impossible for people to simply bypass it.
Besides having strict safety measures, Bumble also offers background checks!
One other problem we often face in dating apps is catfishing; a person pretending to be someone they’re not.
Although some people who use fake pictures don’t mean to catfish for criminal purposes, dangerous individuals can use fake pictures to lure victims.
Bumble’s photo verification process makes it nearly impossible for perpetrators to fake their identities.
Every user is required to verify their identity by taking a selfie of themselves in one of the poses Bumble demonstrates.
Then, the selfie is reviewed by both human and automated staff that decide whether the picture is valid or not.
If Bumble hints that a person is using fake pictures, their account won’t be verified and they will be unable to use the app.
This makes users feel safer and more comfortable with who they’re talking to.
Another site with a solid identity verification process is, without a doubt, Grindr.
Launched in 2009, since then, Grindr went ahead to become the biggest social networking app for members of the LGBTQ community.
When signing up for Grindr, people are required to confirm their phone numbers through SMS.
Not only that, but Grindr takes reports very seriously; they require people with suspicious activity to verify their identity.
If, say, a user has been reported under the suspicion of impersonating someone else, they will be required to send a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper with their email/device ID written on it.
Also, since Grindr is strictly used by adults over the age of 18, users will find themselves having to go over the identity verification process plus provide a picture of themselves holding a government-issued ID.
Until a person’s identity is 100% confirmed, they will remain suspended from all Grindr activities and the app itself.
This makes for a pretty solid background-checking process.
5. Plenty of Fish.
Another Match Group popular app, Plenty of Fish is a popular dating app and site with more than 150 million registered users.
With plenty of unique features, POF also has a firm identity verification system.
Not only does POF have the well-received Garbo which runs background checks, but it also has many other safety-ensuring features.
These features include Noonlight, Selfie Verification, and Crisis Text Line.
As we can see, this site takes the safety of its users seriously.
To read more about POF’s safety measures
- Go to POF’s site;
- View Safety Center;
- Go to Safety, Tools, and Resources.
Hinge launched in 2012, and it is a unique site as it intends to help everybody find love—without staying on the app for too long.
“Go on your last first date” as they say.
Hinge authenticates users’ accounts through their social media, so this makes it an overall safe platform to be on.
New users are asked to sign in with their phone number or Facebook account; both of which need to be verified.
Hinge also has a photo verification feature that encourages users to send selfies to verify their accounts.
Keep in mind that a lot of verification processes on dating apps reward people with badges; if a person has a verified badge on their profile, it means they’re them.
Stir is a dating app for single parents, and—as the site says—people who don’t think having children is a deal-breaker.
It’s part of the Match Group, so it benefits from Garbo’s features, but that’s not the only safety precaution the site offers.
Stir is a legitimate dating site that takes safety very seriously, so, it has multiple features that allow users to feel comfortable.
This website is strict regarding the many profiles that are created on it; every profile is carefully reviewed before becoming public.
Stir checks the legitimacy of each user who creates an account by checking their name, profile content (pictures, information, essay), and overall validity.
How to stay safe while online dating?
Besides using apps that do background checks on their users, there are also other measures you must take to stay safe when online dating. Here:
– Carefully assess the legitimacy of a user’s profile.
When online dating, the chances of us coming across a suspicious or fake profile are really high.
Hence you need to carefully check whether a profile is valid and whether it has an appropriate amount of information:
- A single picture is usually not a very good sign;
- Little to no information provided is ground for suspicion;
- No other social media links to prove one’s identity is usually a red flag;
- A verified badge is usually a good sign as it shows a user has gone through numerous identity verification processes.
– Check your match’s social media accounts.
If your match has mentioned their social media handles on their profile, do check them out.
If not, if you know their name and last name, try looking them up on social media—with enough luck, you might be able to find them—or Google.
You can try looking them up on Swindlerbuster as well, and see if they really are who they claim to be!
Make sure that they’re not catfishing or lying to you.
– Don’t accept requests for financial assistance.
Don’t give away money or financial information to anybody, no matter how believable somebody might sound.
Chances are that they’re scammers waiting for the opportunity to take money from users.
And if not that, they could be gold diggers.
– Don’t give your personal information out.
No matter who, if you don’t know your match and haven’t met up with them, don’t give sensitive information such as:
- Credit card details;
- Social security number, etc.
We can’t know for sure who we’re talking with; we could be talking to a very dangerous person.
Please, stay safe and don’t put your safety in jeopardy by giving out personal information.
– Pick different pictures for your online dating profiles.
I highly advise you to use photos you don’t use on other social media.
Because of today’s technologies, people can find other people’s identities through their pictures using online tools.
– Block and report people who you think might be dangerous.
Make the most out of the blocking and reporting features.
Block and report people who exhibit signs of bad, criminal, and/or dangerous behavior.
Save yourself and others from ever interacting with people like that.
– Check if your date has a criminal record.
Luckily for us, there are online tools that help us have access to a person’s criminal records (if any).
You can search your match before you go out with them on
- Sheriff’s Department,
- National Association of Counties,
- National Sex Offender Public Website, etc.
Also, reverse image search tools such as Duplichecker could be of help if you’re trying to confirm a person’s identity.
How to stay safe while meeting up with an online date?
After you’ve made sure you’re safe while surfing on dating sites, it’ll be time to make sure you’re safe when you decide to meet up with a match.
Here’s how you can stay safe when meeting up with an online date:
– First and foremost, wait before agreeing to meet up.
Before we proceed with the other tips, I really want to emphasize this part.
Do not immediately agree to meet up with a match.
Wait until you two have gotten to know each other, have video chatted, and until you confirm that they’re not a threat.
– Always let people know who you’re going with and where you’re going.
Always tell people the location and the person you’re going out with.
This way, if worst comes to worst, others know the necessary information that will aid the situation.
I do this myself before a date. A simple “Hey, I’m going out with my date tonight, this is him/her. I’ll be at [location].” will do the work!
Extra advice from me, casually and smoothly try to make it known to your date that your friends know where you are and who you’re with.
– Only meet up and go to public areas.
When agreeing to meet up, pick a public and well-populated area.
Don’t go anywhere you haven’t gone before; avoid places that make it possible for the two of you to be alone.
– Don’t get inside your match’s vehicles.
Agree to choose a method of transportation that is public and crowded.
The second we get inside the vehicle of a—pretty much—stranger, we’re putting ourselves in possible danger and vulnerability.
– Trust your gut instinct.
If you’re getting a strange feeling that something isn’t right, trust that feeling.
Our bodies tell us more than we can imagine.
Don’t stick long enough to find out if your gut instinct is right or not; get up and leave.
– Be careful with alcohol.
Paying attention to the amount of alcohol we’re consuming while out on a date is extremely important.
Don’t feel pressured to drink more alcohol than what you’re already used to; this can distort our perception.
Feeling drunk or tipsy while we’re meeting a match will put us in a dangerous and unwanted state of vulnerability.
– Don’t hesitate to ask for help.
When you’re out, say, in a bar or club, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you sense danger.
Tell a bartender, waiter, or other staff what’s going on and they will help you get to safety.
A lot of places have even developed special codes (e.g. safe words, drink names) that tell them we’re in danger.
Even giving somebody a look in public will suffice in telling them something isn’t right.
Safety comes first.
From what we’ve learned thus far, we can conclude that dating apps and sites aren’t safe sites from where we can nonchalantly meet up with strangers.
Even with all the background checking and identity verifications, dangerous people will find a way to slip through the cracks.
The plothole in sites’ and apps’ safety measures is that a lot of people who have done bad things haven’t been reported.
Overall, we can’t know just what a person is capable of. That’s why it’s important to be cautious while meeting people online.
Date, have fun, but don’t forget your safety!