How Background Checks Could Make Online Dating Safer

Key Takeaways

  • Tinder is adding a background check feature to users who want to scope out potential dates. 
  • The background checks will provide information like a history of violence or abuse and restraining orders. 
  • Experts say the online dating world is full of dangers, and remember to think of your safety over finding love.
Someone loooking at an online dating profile on their smartphone.
FilippoBacci / Getty Images

Tinder will soon allow you to perform a background check on a potential date in hopes of making the online dating game safer for everyone involved. 

The addition of background checks will allow users to see if the people they are interested in have an alarming criminal record. With online dating becoming the norm for more and more people, especially during a pandemic, experts say background checks are a necessary addition to the dating world. 

"I think that Tinder adding this feature is brilliant," Susan Winter, an New York City-based relationship expert and love coach, told Lifewire over the phone. 

"We don't know who is behind that profile: we don't know if they are single, if they are a stalker, if they are harmful…we don't even know if they want a relationship.” 

The Dangers of Online Dating

Tinder is partnering with the nonprofit online background check platform, Garbo, to provide the option of background checks to its users. Users will be able to pay to get a background check, with details like arrest records or histories of violent acts, by inputting their date’s phone number and full name. 

Garbo’s website says it collects "public records and reports of violence or abuse, including arrests, convictions, restraining orders, harassment, and other violent crimes," all things you should know about someone before meeting them in person.

Many people already vet their dates by deep diving into their social media profiles and scouring their internet footprint. But since social media only shows you what people want you to see about them, Winter said that Tinder’s new feature will surpass the social media method. 

"When the prospect of love lies ahead, people will do things they wouldn’t normally do."

"[Tinder] is really trying to eliminate violence and unnecessary risks," she said. "[Background checks] are the real deep dive here." 

Relationship coaches like Amie Leadingham said she and her clients have been doing manual background checks on dating prospects for years. 

"[Background checks] are about getting the information out on the table in front of you so you can make your own educated decision on if you want to date them or not," she said. 

While online dating poses a range of dangers, about 19% of women between 18-34 report that someone on a dating site has threatened to physically harm them, according to a 2020 Pew Research study. The study also found that 35% of all online dating users say that someone has sent them a sexually explicit message or image they didn't ask for. 

Winter said online dating risks also involve scammers—either people saying they are someone who they are not or duping someone to give them money. According to the Federal Trade Commision, reported losses related to romance scams reached a record of $304 million last year. 

"What happens with all of my clients in online dating is they hit a wall where they are so upset and so disappointed at the fraud, lies, and inaccuracy," she said. 

Dating Safely 

Tinder’s background checks undoubtedly will provide online daters a safer way to vet their dates beforehand, but experts say there are still things you can do to play it safe when meeting up with someone you’ve only talked to online. 

Smene using an online dating app on a smartphone.
Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

Before the date even begins, Leadingham said to do your research by reverse image searching your date's photos (to make sure it's actually them), and to set up a separate email account and Google voice number so people can't use your personal info to find your address. For the date itself, experts say to keep it public and keep it earlier in the day.

"No late-night drinks and no going to someone’s house until they pass all the tests," Winter said.

Winter added that if someone is persistent about meeting up only for alcoholic drinks or only at night, that's a red flag. 

Leadingham also said to consider safety related to the pandemic, as well as the health boundaries people now have. 

"With the pandemic, it’s more now on how do you value your health," she said. "You want to find somebody that has the same safety viewpoints and values that you do." 

Overall, Winter said people in the dating world need to think about safety much more, because, in the quest to find love, that priority often gets pushed to the side.

"When the prospect of love lies ahead, people will do things they wouldn’t normally do," she said.

Was this page helpful?