Is the seemingly nice guy Prince Charming or just a charming sex offender?

Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day, new technology such as online dating background checks can supposedly help users find out the answer to the question above in mere seconds and with little effort or cost. However, while these new online dating background check services appear extremely fast and easy to use, the information provided by them may not be wholly accurate or complete.

These online dating background checks allow users to instantly run background checks and search public information of people including their criminal history, property records, contact information, relatives, and neighbors. The online dating background checks may also come with an email search to find out what social networks the person uses along with online photos, websites, and blog posts.

Are these online dating background checks accurate? Users of online dating background checks may not understand their limitations and may be falsely convinced that they will never have to worry about people they meet again. In reality, such information found on instant background checks is “raw data” best used as a secondary source to lead to more detailed and accurate information. 

Because of the nature of criminal databases, the appearance of a person’s name in online dating background checks does not necessarily indicate that person is a criminal any more than the absence shows that person has a clean record. Any positive match must be verified by reviewing actual court records. In other words, these instant criminal databases may contain both “false positives” and “false negatives.”

  • A “False Positive” is where there is a criminal match with the person being checked, but upon further research it is not the same person.
  • A “False Negative” is where there is not a criminal match with the person being checked, but that person is indeed a criminal.

Another issue with online dating background checks is the false sense of security the results can give since they are taken from databases that are subject to false negatives, false positives, and other inaccurate information. Like a phony cure for cancer, users think they are protected when they are not, and then they fail to do the usual things to protect themselves because they have let their guard down. Instant online dating background checks may not even offer the protection they promise, since an unsuspecting consumers may not understand that:

  • The criminal databases are full of inaccuracies so that a search may be a great deal more ‘miss’ than “hit” (i.e. an actual criminal record found).
  • Even if there is a “hit,” it is problematic to even know if the real criminal is the person being searched or merely someone with the same name.
  • The data utilized for the so-called “living situation” and financial searches is based upon billions of public records, and is often described by data experts as being a “data dump,” meaning a less then useful amalgamation of public records that may or may not be accurate, complete, or relevant, or information easily obtained from a quick Google search.
  • The information garnered from social networking sites can be wildly inaccurate.

In addition, online dating background checks searches immediately raise privacy issues for the person being “instantly checked” and legal issues if the information found turns out to be inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date. The end result is that the uses and liability associated with instant online dating background checks need to be closely reviewed before consumers place any reliance on them.

For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or [email protected].