Few New Yorkers find a forever partner without enduring horrible, even traumatizing, first dates. Finding prospective mates online — where anyone can be anybody — has upped the need to be prudent and vigilant about whom you consent to meet. Maria Coder, 40, a former newspaper and wire service reporter, advises that those looking for love can save time, prevent disappointment and elude victimization by using digital tools to investigate prospective partners.
Coder, who lives in Washington Heights, is the author of “InvestiDate: How to Investigate Your Date,” and holds workshops (“Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing 101,” “Oh Honey, Bee Careful!” and “Are You Dating an A**?”) to help vulnerable people — especially women — make better, safer choices and foster happier romantic outcomes. More information about her book and her workshops can be found at www.investidateyourdate.com.
Were you ever conned by someone you dated?
I met a guy through friends. I thought he was great, but we were always having falling-outs about Facebook. It turned out everything in his life was a complete fabrication. He was soliciting three dozen women a month on Facebook! You can tell a lot about someone by their social media accounts and whether his friends are people you would feel comfortable with. A telltale sign is when a man is accepting five to 10 female friend requests each day and adding women en masse. Some men have pictures showing a different woman sitting on their lap every week. A lot of photos with a lot of women doesn’t mean it’s wrong — just that he’s wrong for me if I’m looking for a genuine relationship.
What free digital tools are available to see if someone is who he claims to be?
Check their LinkedIn profile, and make sure things add up. SearchBug.com is great for doing reverse phone number checks, though you may have to sort through a lot of results for common names. ZabaSearch.com — I love this site! — pulls up an address history, which is helpful if you suspect someone is lying about where they’re from. All kinds of public records can be found on LexisNexis, but it costs money: If you don’t have a subscription, you may have to use it at a library. Also, use databases for professionals! If someone says he’s a doctor, check him out on docinfo.org, which includes disciplinary records. Lawyers can be searched through https://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneySearch.
A really good tool to use to see if a photo is pilfered or outdated is the Google Reverse Image Search on Chrome: It lets you know if a photo is populated in other places and whether the photo is pilfered or outdated. You can download a free app for your phone at https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/mobile. Just open a photo with your finger and press again and select “image search.” I also like SpyDialer.com. This lets you hear someone’s outgoing voicemail, which can tell you a lot: Decent people care what someone else’s experience is going to be when someone reaches out to them. If the guy claims to be from Italy and he has a non-Italian accent, well, that’s something to follow up. CriminalCheck.com is a good place to look to find out if someone is a sex offender.
How do you tell if someone is married or committed to someone else?
In New York State, it isn’t easy to do (without paying), though often the search engines will pop up the names of other people living at that same address. There are usually clues, though: He’s never available on Friday nights or at particular times. If a single guy in NYC has a picture of himself walking a little white dog with a pink collar, he probably has a woman in his life or he’s gay. Common sense is your most important tool, and any lies about anything are major red flags. You give someone the benefit of the doubt after you’ve known them a long time and they’ve proven themselves to you: You don’t give the benefit of the doubt to strangers. People who have nothing to hide hide nothing!
You’re married now. Did you investigate your husband?
Twice! We first met in 2006 and then again in 2012, and a lot can change. He loves it. Any guy who is aware of what the world is like today would want a woman who is smart enough and alert enough to do this. You have to be your own bodyguard. There’s a really big difference between using publicly available information to make sure you can stay safe in a situation and stalking or hacking someone.
Who lies about what and why in online profiles?
Women usually lie about their age and their weight. Men lie about their age and their height, their income, their hairlines and whether they’re single. Lying about height is just so ridiculous, but men who lie about their height tend to have lots of close-ups to appear bigger in photos. But people can also omit other things that might disqualify them from your consideration — a criminal history or cheating habits — and craft profiles designed to lure people into danger or scams. We’ve become a more selfish ‘what’s in this for me?’ society and that translates to online dating where everyone wants to look as fantastic as possible. I have no problem with Craigslist, but meeting more people more quickly leaves us little time to do research. Having a name, a photo, a phone conversation and a phone number is a good starting point before consenting to meet someone. And, of course, you should only meet them in public.