Houston private investigator shares how to background check that date you met online

Brittaney Wilmore Image
Tuesday, February 13, 2024
Here's how to background check your online love interest before you meet them
You've been talking to someone online, and now you're ready to meet them. But before you do, this private investigator says you should do your homework.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Data from Pew Research Center in 2023 found that while Americans were split on whether online dating is a safe way to meet people, 6 in 10 felt companies should require background checks before someone creates a dating profile.

If you're looking for love online and want to meet the person, there's nothing wrong with that. But Kathy Griffin with K-Griff Investigations, a nationwide, all-female firm based here in Houston, cautions just be sure you do your homework first.

Her top tip: Don't give anybody money. Ever. No matter what they tell you.

That may sound obvious, but people are still falling for it. Details about your financial situation are off limits, too.

"You'd be surprised how many people call me for help, had never even seen the person, never met the person, they're talking with them, and then being asked for money, and by the time they reach me, they've already given them money," Griffin told ABC13.

That's also why she recommends you FaceTime with a person, especially if they are overseas. If they keep putting you off, or it's been months and you've never seen them, that's a problem. On that note, if you're dating someone who says they're abroad, ask to see a passport because people can create fake versions of those, too.

"You want to make sure the passport is real. Of course, vetting before you meet is important. Anything that doesn't add up as far as they're in the military, and they say they can't use the phone. These are all the scams we've heard, or they send a profile picture that's not them," Griffin explained. "You'd be surprised how many people, or the same people, try to scam different women."

"They use the same profile pic, which is a false profile pic. You would be able to go to Google and put in their phone number they're using and see all the different scams they've done to other people, so people are very forthcoming in showing they've been scammed," she continued.

SEE ALSO: In a dating situation that went south? These apps could help you get out of it safely

Even if someone isn't international, you should ask to see their driver license.

Griffin also advised social media can help you spot red flags.

For example, look for current profiles. Have they posted recently? Do they share photos of themselves, family or friends? Are they only on one site? At this point, most people are on several sites.

Also, don't be afraid to ask about their criminal history, current living arrangements, marital status or if they have kids.

Some of that information may already exist in public records such as a county appraisal district search, which will show you if they own property and where they're living.

The county district clerk's office can confirm marriage and divorce, but you have to know in which county that happened. You can also look up criminal and civil lawsuits.

It might feel too personal to ask these questions, but Griffin says, when it comes to safety, you can never do too much. And you'll want to try to keep your emotions in check.

"I think the best way to do it is tell yourself facts are obviously more important than emotions," Griffin said. "You've got to think of yourself, future, kids, anybody that this person is going to affect in your life, so try to do your due diligence first, and make sure you've done everything you can to vet this person."

K-Griff also says that these days, it should just be expected that both partners will be doing checks.

"Whether it's a woman and a woman, man and a man or a man and a woman, I think that's something they should say and know, I'm going to do a background check on you before we meet just because that's what I would do for my family's sake. I need to know who you are and my family needs to know who you are," Griffin explained.

There are databases where you can pay a fee and get information as they pull from public data sources. Keep in mind, though, you need your date's full legal name, not a nickname, to get the most accuracy.

In that case, you may want to order a professional background check, which can cost about $300.

Griffin says those checks, like the kind her company perform, pull from credit bureaus and law enforcement sources. That means you'll learn their full legal name, driver license information, address information, criminal history, relatives, vehicles, property and businesses they own and more.

The price may feel steep, but if you're serious about the person, it may be worth it. You also don't have to wait for something to go wrong to get a background check. They can be done at any time.

Griffin said people are also doing checks on behalf of their parents or siblings who are dating.

Some of the people who are most vulnerable to scams are women who have lost a partner and want to recreate what they may have felt in their longtime marriage. But next thing they know, half their savings is gone, even though they've never met the love interest in person.

Elderly men, whose wives have passed away and are now living in nursing homes or assisted living, are also among the most susceptible to scams after meeting young women who claim they'll accompany them, but then start to ask for money.

That's why Griffin advises adult children should be very involved in their parents' lives.

Finding love can be hard, and K-Griff says the reason people continue to fall for scams is because there are so many people who are desperate to find that special someone, they'll believe anything.

But the key is to do your due diligence.

"Obviously, you have to make the decision yourself and judge that person. How much are they telling you and then you can respond. I would let them speak first and see how deep they're getting and what are they revealing about themselves," Griffin said.

And in case it wasn't said clearly enough the first time, don't give anybody money. No, seriously.

"No matter what situation they tell you they are in, because they shouldn't be asking that to begin with," Griffin said.

When you are ready to meet, make sure it's in a public place, tell a friend or family member where you're going, and rely on your own transportation.

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