Do background checks a better valentine make?

The personal security risks associated with using online dating sites are clear. Despite that, the idea of using background checks is controversial with both site operators and users. So far, only one major online dating site vendor,, offers them as a standard part of the subscription service.

While the women I spoke with about the technology behind online dating sites tended to like the idea of background checks, the men found them off-putting.

Michelle, a 45-year old scientist, says background checks make her feel safer, and she also likes the fact that eHarmony lets her control who sees her profile. eHarmony doesn't do background checks as part of its basic subscription. But it does offer RelyID, an extra cost option that lets users verify that their name, age and geographic location are truthful.

Ken, 29, has used both eHarmony and He doesn't like the idea of people running background checks on him because he thinks it starts a relationship off on the wrong foot. He's never had anyone lie to him, so he says the RelyID moniker doesn't have much value for him personally. "Seeing that badge on someone's eHarmony profile … implies the person is accustomed to encountering people with trust issues. I would prefer to date people who assume the best in others."

Jake, a 56-year-old freelance writer, also takes umbrage at the idea of background checks. "I don't think most women I'd be interested in would be using that kind of site," he says.

But some women have good reason to be concerned. Michelle, who has been in an abusive relationship that ended with a permanent restraining order, thinks a background check can provide an additional layer of reassurance. But because she could control who could see her profile on eHarmony, she didn't worry about the people she met there.

Mary, a 45 year old executive for large IT consultancy, is concerned about meeting stalkers or scammers online. "I certainly worry about it. I worry about it all the time," she says. "It's a jungle out there."

As for background checks, she's all for it. "I think it does make a difference. I do gravitate toward that," she says.

But security isn't everything. Mary has used, which does background checks, a few times, but hasn't stayed with the service. "I don't use them that much because I didn't find a lot of [people] there."

Online dating articles

Rob Mitchell's online dating blog

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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