HOUSTON — Chances are you've probably got a dating app downloaded on your phone right now (or three or five). We're not judging – many of us have been there, done that. But before you say "yes" to that Tinder date, just how much do you know about the other person?
An article from the Wall Street Journal estimates 30 percent of adults have a criminal record. So it's not surprising 29 percent of people, according to Pew Research, have gone online to search for information about someone they are dating or about to meet for that (nerve-wracking) first date.
But what websites are available for you to safely look someone up?
Search White Pages and True People Search
Know your date's name and location? On free websites, like WhitePages or True People Search, you can submit a person's first name and phone number to find out their age, possible address, possible relatives and possible work associates. You can quickly find out if the person you're getting a coffee with tomorrow actually has a twin brother.
Check their social media accounts
Have you done the standard Google search? It's free! Find their social media profiles. Make sure their name matches the photo. Don't get catfished! Check out that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram profile. They might even be hiding behind a strange Reddit username. Want to go really deep into their past Facebook posts? Use SearchIsBack.com or Graph.tips. It's probably better to know upfront you're on a date with a convicted felon rather than being blindsided during a first date.
Do a Google reverse image search
Do you know how to do a reverse photo search? If you have their photo open on the Tinder website on your computer, for example, you can right-click the photo, choose the option that says "Search Google for Image" and see if their photo pops up. Or, go here to do a reverse image search on any image you have of them.
Running a background check
Many websites offer different types of criminal background checks, including state, regional, and national, but you'd have to pay a fee (and do so at your own risk). How much you can find out depends on the amount of information you already have on the person.
Check the sex offender registry
You'll also want to make absolutely sure they're not a convicted sex offender. It's mandated that all U.S. states maintain a sex offender registry. The U.S. Dept. of Justice has a registry that allows you to search by state, or you can search their national database. Use it to your advantage.
Paging, Jay J. Armes, private investigator!
Still not satisfied? You could hire a private investigator, especially if you believe you've been the victim of a catfishing scam. You never know who is hiding behind that too-good-to-be-true profile picture.