Former crime reporter Maria Coder coaches online daters on simple (and legal) investigative techniques anyone can use to ferret out dating scammers.
Often, the request is driven by a gut feeling: Something doesn’t seem right about him/her. Her profile photos don’t match her stated hobbies, age, or profession. He says he’s a successful lawyer, but he doesn’t ever seem to go to work. She often leaves the room to call or text someone.
Many times, people aren’t sure what they’re looking for, only that they have a vague, dark suspicion about the person they’ve recently met or are newly dating. They’re torn: They want to trust the potential love interest, but they want to protect themselves from…something, they’re not quite sure what. So they call us.
That’s not the kind of investigation we do. But there’s plenty that daters can do on their own, by acquiring a few simple investigative tools. Learning your way around free online databases and public records can turn up employment, criminal, and address histories; and honing your powers of observation can turn your vague gut feelings into a more sophisticated radar for disingenuousness and deception.
Former crime reporter Maria Coder offers a seminar series that arms daters with those tools. And she’s recently released a book called InvestiDate: How to Investigate Your Date that teaches simple, legal methods for learning more about people you meet online and (hopefully) putting fears to rest.
In her lecture series for Internet daters, Coder shares a few tricks of the trade, such as:
1. How to create a secondary “stealth” online dating profile to look for folks who change the basic facts about themselves, such as age or profession. “Whenever someone lies about anything, I disregard them,” she says.
2. How to use criminal, address, and professional databases to check out claims that seem contradictory or false.
3. How to be vigilant for popular dating scams, such as people posing as soldiers or investment bankers, who then con their “beloved” out of thousands of dollars.
Coder has received lots of press for her book, including this Nashville Scene article, penned by Pursuit‘s managing editor. And to detractors who suggest that surreptitiously checking up on a love interest goes beyond the bounds of healthy skepticism, Coder merely smiles. “Better safe than dead,” she says.
A version of this article first appeared on the [FIND] Investigations blog in 2012.