By the time I meet a man for the first time, I’ve researched the hell out of him. I’ve checked whether he works where he says he works, for how long, whether his photographs are authentic, and whether he’s married. If I lived in the US or another country that keeps a sex offenders registry, I’d also know if he had a criminal record.
Hunting for all that information online is an utter invasion of privacy, and I consider Google stalking unethical under any other circumstances. However, people in this community get their consent violated constantly. They get raped. They get harmed, assaulted, killed, and kidnapped when meeting unknown partners for casual hook-ups. They also get cat fished. With those risks on the table, I’m throwing away my Google ethics with yesterday’s trash.
I use online tools to find out how honest my date is and whether the truth is consistent with what he’s told me. If he’s lying about anything, I’m not meeting him. Not even once. Clearly it pays to know whether he’s married if he’s telling me he’s single, but I also tend to pay a lot of attention to how long he’s worked for his company and what his references say. It’s a hardly solid indication of trustworthiness, which is why safe calls, ex-partner references, and the like are far more crucial, but I get a fair sense of a man if I see what his employment history is like. Someone who’s worked for nine years at the same company has something going for him, regardless of whether he’s a janitor or a CEO.
None of the tools and techniques I’m going to outline are complicated. A five-year-old could use them. I recommend you try them all with your own name and email address to get a feel for what they have to offer you. That will also let you know how much of your own information is available online. You may want to remove some of it to keep yourself safe </irony>.
Predator Alert Tools
- Creepshield alerts you to sex offender status via social networks and Fetlife.
Reverse Email Search
If you type your email address into Google, you may find some pretty shocking information. Mine takes you my Skype name, clients, and face photographs. Everyone I connect to on Skype gets my home address and phone number, so searching with an email address is not a bad tool.
Better yet, I can use Spokeo (paid membership) or PeopleSmart (free). The latter leads me to my Foursquare account which, if I use it, will confirm whether I live where I say I live. Obviously it will also tell others where you are at any given time of the day, so if you find that yours is discoverable, it’s best to fix that. People Smart also takes you to my Facebook page and (shock, horror) my BDSM blog. Who’d a thunk it? Shit. Facebook gives me plenty of fodder to find out how honest my date has been with me.
Spokeo is far more in-depth. It provides criminal background checks, all social network pages, photographs, profiles, family members, and blogs. It also verifies whether the email address I have is authentic.
Pipl is a free but diverse background checker. It lets you use a wide combination of personal details, so if you have some pieces of information but not others, you will be able to refine your search.
Rapportive takes you to the LinkedIn profile attached to a Gmail address, although it’s simple enough to type a full name + Linkedin into Google’s search field.
Verify Email Address
It’s easy to verify whether the email address you’ve been given is genuine unless it’s a sock puppet account. You simply enter it into the server’s ‘forgot password’ field. It will give you an error warning if the address doesn’t exist. Each server has different ways of verifying, so use this page as a guide.
I am constantly surprised about how few people know how to do background checks with Google. I thought it was common knowledge, but apparently not, so here goes:
- Type full name + social network, city, company name or marriage partner (or any combination of those) to verify information.
- Putting double quotation marks around a three or four barrelled name or business name will cut fluff out of your search by forcing Google to search for the words in their given order.
- Do a reverse Google image search by clicking on the camera icon and uploading a photograph of your date into the search field. This may take you to sex offenders registries, social media accounts, and the like.
- When choosing search terms, consider how the answer to your question would be phrased. I’d search “John Doe’s Spouse” instead of ‘Who is John Doe’s Spouse?” because that’d give me a better result.
- Use an asterisk to give Google permission to search for synonyms. If I want to find out if John Doe has a marriage partner, I put a tild (~) or asterisk before ‘*marriage partner’ to allow Google to search for partner, wife, husband, spouse, etc.
- There are other tricks for refining a search so that you can hunt for different social networks, company names, positions, and so forth. If at first you get no result, try a different combination of words.
When these tools show me that the person in question has no online presence, I don’t meet them, period. It’s possible that they’re one of the rare few who genuinely distrusts the internet, but in this day and age, it makes me far too suspicious to take a risk. I simply don’t meet people who have no online presence. I’ve prolly cut out some decent men that way, but I’ve rarely found a man without at least some online existence, and I’d rather not take chances.