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Meet the private investigators paid to check out online dating matches before you meet them

The Independent logo The Independent 19/06/2017 Rachel Hosie

© Provided by Independent Print Limited Julie Nashawaty was a couple of days away from a first date with a man who, according to their online dating profiles, she had a 92 per cent compatibility match with.

“We instantly connected, texted incessantly, and became Snapchat friends,” she said. “We had plans for Monday and it couldn’t come soon enough.”

But just before they were due to meet in person, Nashawaty decided to give him a quick search online, as the majority of us do when it comes to online dating. 

And that was when she saw it: “This uber cute guy I had a date with IN TWO DAYS had robbed a bank less than a year ago.”

But she’s not the only one who’s had close shaves - a few months ago a friend was set to go out with a Tinder date when she googled him and found out he’d nearly gone to prison for glassing someone in a club two years earlier.

It was experiences like this that made Nashawaty realise there was a market for professional background checks before meeting your online dates.

And the stats make for pretty convincing reading too:

  • 10 per cent of sex offenders use online dating sites
  • Three per cent of online daters are psychopaths
  • 51 per cent of online daters are already in a relationship (12 per cent are married)
  • 10 per cent of members on free dating websites are scammers
  • 81 per cent of people lie on their profile.

And that may not just be saying they’re six foot when they’re really five foot eleven.

Stories abound of people running into trouble on dates having not done their research - perhaps you’ve met up and found out your match wasn’t who they said they were, perhaps you’re feeling threatened or perhaps you just want to escape but aren’t sure how.

Last year, the UK's National Crime Agency revealed that crimes linked to online dating had increased by 450 per cent in five years. Similarly, last November the Metropolitan Police reported that they'd seen a 2000 per cent rise in the number of crimes involving Tinder and Grindr since 2012.

With the rise of online dating we’ve seen a necessary rise in ways that are meant to keep people safe.

Signs such as this are becoming more common in bars:

But if you can, obviously it’s better to find out the person has a criminal record or is potentially dangerous before you meet up, so you can save yourself from a frightening situation. Of course, if you have enough time and stalking skills, you can find out a lot yourself. But not all of us feel confident about being able to find all incriminating evidence. And when all you have is a first name, job title and perhaps university, if the person has a minimal social media presence they might be hard to find through a basic search engine.

The majority of dating sites don’t run background checks on their users, so this is where the professionals come in.

With her company, Aste, Nashawaty employs a team of private investigators who work to make online dating safer. You send in what limited information you have about your match, and within 24 hours, they’ll send you a background check.

“We’re trained professionals with a proprietary method of doing research on a person,” Nashawaty explains. “That's also how we can do it so quickly.”

Incredibly, 45 per cent of people they’ve investigated were hiding something - nine per cent were married, nine per cent had arrest records, 11 per cent hde conflicting information and 16 per cent were catfishing (pretending to be someone they’re not).

On one memorable occasion, Nashawaty found one of the suspects had been arrested for dating women to molest their children.

“We find out every place your partner is online,” Nashawaty explains. “We deliver social media profiles, sex offender status, major arrests, and then any other mention of your date online.

“If that means they were in a small news story from 2002 about building a movie theatre in their parents’ home, you get that too.”

It’s comprehensive, but it may put you in a tricky position if you decide you do still want to date the person and thus already know everything about them.

Still, people like the reassurance of knowing they’re not meeting someone dangerous. And one customer even said she liked her match even more after the results of the background check (he was very philanthropic).

“Business has been steadily increasing as more people find out that there’s a people driven solution,” Nashawaty told The Independent. “People were stuck without any solution before us, so now that people know they have someone to turn to, they're really excited.”

And often, people go to Aste when they already suspect something: “We’ve had a lot of feedback that their gut feeling matched up with the information we provided back to them,” Nashawaty says.

There is another company doing the same thing, but they charge more and take longer. Aste charges £23.50 for a background check, so it’s a bit steep if you’re planning on doing it before every date, but if you have an inkling and want peace of mind, it’s not outrageous.

At the moment, Aste takes on clients all across the globe, but only in English.

With new dating apps hitting the market every week, our appetite for swiping our way to love shows no sign of abating. And with that in mind, perhaps in a few years running background checks on your matches could be the norm.

“Everyone deserves to have someone to turn to to help them in their quest for love,” says Nashawaty.

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