Have you ever wondered if there’s a better way to look someone up before a date?
Something more than checking out a social media profile or doing a google search? Well, there is—a dating background check is a way to check and see if someone that you met online has a documented history of causing harm so you can better decide if you feel comfortable meeting this person in real life.
If you’re new to dating background checks or background checks in general, don’t worry. We’re going to run through everything you need to know about using these services, what to look for, and how to get started in this guide.
An online background check is a process of searching for an individual, usually across multiple databases, in order to verify their identity and investigate aspects of their past such as any criminal record history, employment history, education, and more.
Sites that offer background checks for personal use will often refer to themselves as “people search sites”. We find these types of sites provide incredibly invasive access to personal identifying information and are often missing the most important information — records of violent and harmful behavior.
For the purpose of this guide, we’re going to focus exclusively on why individuals should use background checks for personal safety when it comes to online dating.
The number of online dating sites and dating apps is pretty much infinite these days. From Tinder, to Hinge, to Match.com, there’s an option for anyone looking for love, or even a casual hook up.
1 in 3 Americans have used some sort of dating websites and apps, and if you’re reading this blog, it’s probably safe to assume that you are one of those people. So, we don’t have to explain to you that most dating apps are essentially the wild west. With just a name, phone number, and a couple of pictures, you can make a dating profile on pretty much any site out there.
The debate around who should and should not be allowed to use dating apps is ongoing, but for now, it’s safe to say there are a lot of bad actors and harmful individuals using these sites to find future victims.
Using a background check service can help you identify who these bad actors are, and whether or not someone actually is the person they claim they are (see our catfishing guide to learn more about this).
Garbo allows you to see if an individual has a violent or harmful criminal record, or if they’re listed on a sex offender registry, by sourcing information from public records across the United States.
It should be noted that what shows up on a background check (especially in terms of criminal records) varies a lot depending on the source of the search. Some sites show every public record that can be found, regardless of whether it’s a criminal record or not — including, in our opinion, invasive information like home addresses.
Garbo, on the other hand, focuses exclusively on harmful criminal records and shows arrests, convictions, and sex offender registry records for violent and harmful offenses. We have a thorough offense reporting policy that dictates what does and does not show up when an individual is searched.
Everyone has their own standards for what they are and are not okay with when it comes to the past of the person they’re dating. But in order to actually assess whether it’s safe to meet up with, and potentially be in a relationship with someone, you should know whether this someone has a history of causing harm.
Studies have shown that a history of violence is the biggest indicator of future violence. In fact, the average rapist is responsible for 10 separate acts of interpersonal violence including rape, battery, and child physical and sexual abuse.
So, while we don’t think it’s critical to know every detail of an individual’s criminal history—we do think easy and affordable access to public records of violent and/or harmful offenses, can help you make more informed decisions about not only who you want to date, but at a baseline, who may or may not be safe to meet up with in person.
We are definitely pro-background check before the first date, but is it necessary to run a criminal background check on everyone you match with or chat with on dating apps? Well, that’s up to you.
We do recommend, at a minimum, checking out someone’s social media profiles for any red flags before you invest too much time and energy in getting to know them online. If they don’t have social media profiles, you can ask them to Zoom or Whatsapp with you to make sure you’re not being catfished.
If you’re not ready to run a national criminal background check, a good first step is checking local county and state court records to see if you can find any charges that have been brought against this person. But keep in mind that just because someone does not have a criminal record in the state they currently live in, does not mean they have a harmless history. They could have lived in multiple states in the past, whether you know that information or not.
And, most importantly, most violent and harmful individuals never interact with the criminal justice system. You should ALWAYS use caustion when meeting someone new.
You can also search a phone number on Garbo to see if it is a VoIP number for free. VoIP (voice over internet protocol) numbers are frequently used by catfishers and scam profiles because VoIP services usually let you choose an area code and are anonymous.
If you’re having any red flags at all, we do recommend erring on the side of caution and searching the person just to be safe.
Running a background on Garbo is both easy and affordable. Our platform is extremely user-friendly. The first step is to create an account and verify your email address which should only take a couple of minutes. Once you’ve done that, you can purchase search credits for as little as $2.50, which is 14x cheaper than other sites like Truthfinder and Instant Checkmate. With credits in your account, you’re ready to get started with your first search.
In order to run a background check on Garbo, you need very limited contact information. In fact, most searches work with just a first name and a phone number, but the more information, the easier it will be for us to find the exact individual you’re looking for. So, if you’re able to safely find out someone’s full name and date of birth, we recommend including these pieces of information.
If you don’t know someone’s full name or date of birth, that’s okay. A google search may be helpful as well, since Linkedin profiles will often show up, which should provide you with the person’s full name.
Once you’re ready, you’ll simply click "Get Results” and the results will appear in less than three minutes.
If you’re running a background on Garbo, everything you need to see will be front and center. Since we only show public records of criminal offenses and sex offender registry records, you won’t need to dig through other useless (and pretty creepy / invasive) information like relatives and property records in order to find out the information that truly matters. While some sites may advertise themselves as a “free background check”, they often paywall safety-related information like criminal records.
Any criminal records we are able to find will be organized into three buckets: high possibility results, medium possibility results, and low possibility results depending on how much of the information on the record matches that of the individual being searched. Our system will also show aliases or AKA matches if any come up for the person being searched. An AKA match indicates that this individual has used other names, or nicknames, in the past to commit crimes.
Side note: Other sites may show you additional contact information about this person that you did not already know, such as other phone numbers, addresses, and emails. We do not recommend you use any of these methods to contact the person, and we advise against saving any of these because the individual has not consented to giving you these forms of contact information. We call these other sites “Stalking-as-a-Service” and believe they are incredibly dangerous. Would you want this information published about you?
Using a background check service to help ensure your own safety is a great way to mitigate some of the potential risks that inherently come with online dating. But please be aware that most abusive individuals never interact with the criminal justice system and therefore have no documented history of the harm they have caused. So just because someone has a clean record, does not mean you should let your guard down completely. Always use caution, and prepare an escape plan in case you need to quickly get out of a dangerous situation.
You can read our FAQ to learn more about Garbo’s new kind of online background check platform.