“Someone must’ve done something really bad to you.”
That’s the first thing I usually hear when I tell people I wrote the book InvestiDate: How to Investigate Your Date. And yes, they’re right, someone did. But he’s not the reason I started writing my book. He’s the reason I finished it.
For several years while I worked as a reporter, I took notes on research technique, psychological insights, and public databases. Single on and off, I became hyper aware of things I learned at work that I could use to date more safely, especially since I was Internet dating too. I became vigilant, studied body language and word use. I’d catch things at the starting gate, usually, until I met someone beyond underhanded.
My then boyfriend was acting strangely, I thought, on Facebook – accepting dozens of scantily-clad women as “friends” and minimizing computer screens when I walked by.
“It’s in your head,” he’d insist. I even paused to consider it. After all, my project, grounded in suspicion, was nearing a decade worth of research.
Then one early morning around 4 am following a bizarre phone call from my then-boyfriend earlier that day, his mom asked in a panic that I call emergency rooms to see if we could track him down. I got online to look up hospital phone numbers. It occurred to us that maybe, just maybe, he’d posted something on Facebook that would help us find answers. I typed in the web address for Facebook and was automatically deposited into his account, where an open chat window revealed he was not physically ill, he was just physically busy.
There, in black and white and riddled with typos, my boyfriend was getting directions to another woman’s home. “Anticipate my kisses,” the final message read. The conversation started at the time he’d called me much earlier in the day wondering about my whereabouts. In the chat window, he gave this woman his cell phone, not once but twice, in case she’d missed it before.
Adrenaline high, I clicked on the inbox: There were three dozen other meeting requests, sexts and more. My stomach churned. I gathered my belongings, told his mom he was fine, and left.
About a week later he called. I didn’t want to pick up, but I missed his voice, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I was finally getting an apology—closure served up à la mea culpa, some shred of human dignity.
No. Instead, he told me this was all my fault. I had found the emails and caused myself the heartache. Then he delivered the final blow; he told me InvestiDate was stupid. He said my book would fail. He warned me: “Don’t even try it.”
I owe him a thank-you note. It was exactly what I needed to hear to motivate me to finish the darn thing. Now, I try to help others avoid a similar outcome. I mean, think about it: How much do you really know about your date? Let’s say he says he studied at Vanderbilt. Did he? When you say “Commodore,” does he know you’re talking about the school mascot?
In this day and age of speed dating, random meetings, and online hookups, a girl (and a guy) can never be too sure—unless, of course, they take matters into their own hands. Fortunately, the Internet is full of speed bumps for the liars, cheaters, con artists, and convicts of the world.
Here are five hard-earned tips for arming yourself with information, 007-style. Turns out, a little due-diligence can go a long way.
Check Criminal Databases
Not sure if your hot date has a sticky past? Plug your date’s name into FamilyWatchdog.us and CriminalCheck.com to see if he or she comes up; you may also search by address. Both of these sites identify sex offenders. The Federal Bureau of Prisons at Bop.gov will tell you if you’re dealing with a felon. If you want to look up all crimes by a local, pay a small fee to Tennessee Open Records Information Services (TORIS) or pay to use a background check database, like Intelius.com. Also, Jail.org will notify you for free if a crime happens near you.
Call Without Dialing
Does your date have one particular set of numbers that pops up on his or her phone? If it’s a cell phone, you’re in luck. Punch in those pesky digits at SpyDialer.com – you’ll be able to hear the caller’s outgoing voicemail message. So if your date insists Bob from work is calling but you SpyDial and get Roberta’s voicemail, he’s not quite on the up and up.
Make a Date-a-Base
Pick one email to use just for dating and on dating websites. Share the password with two friends (for emergency lookup only). Start making a “date-a-base”—a list of the people with whom you interact…and take note of anyone who appears to be a scammer or a player, or whose claims don’t add up.
Next time you’re asked out, run the info on your date through your date-a-base. Over time you’ll have accumulated names, photos, and enough info to lose the liars not worth your time.
Post a Control Post
Are you dating on free sites, like Craigslist? If you post a personal ad, post one that’s really you (and anonymize your date-a-base email) then post another ad that’s your alter-ego. In one ad, post something that speaks directly to who you are – single, fun-loving, museum-goer, ardent traveler. In the next ad, still be honest but be more risqué – single, wine-lover, looking to paint the town red. Many people will reply to both posts – that’s fine, dating is a numbers game, just make sure the responses match. If your date is 32 in one response, he or she should be 32 in the other.
Look at Your Feet
Did the “I love you” seem disingenuous? While our words can lie, it’s hard for our bodies to go along. So, look down at your feet then look at your date’s… are they facing a door or an exit? If it’s the latter, chances are the words aren’t from the heart.
Basically, it’s important to know whom you’re dealing with. It’s also important that if something feels amiss, you have the tools to find out what you need. You don’t have to run a dozen different checks on everybody you meet for dinner or a drink. But as with anything else in life, it’s better to be prepared than caught in a mess…with a person who does not mean well.
Maria Coder is a former crime journalist and author of InvestiDate: How to Investigate Your Date.