Last year, Match.com became one of the first major online dating sites to introduce background checks for their members. It seems that eHarmony and Sparks Networks (operator of JDate and ChristianMingle) will follow suit and also scan the histories of possible clients for sexual assault, identity theft and violence before allowing them access to their sites.
The call for online dating background checks seemed to stem from an incident back in 2010, when TV executive Carole Markin, 54, sued Match.com after she was sexually assaulted by a man she met on the site following their second date. Her date, 67-year-old Alan Paul Wurtzel of Pacific Palisades, had at least six prior sexual assault convictions.
After the alleged assault, Markin says she went online and learned of the convictions. This then posed the question – who is the person behind an online dating profile, and what is the process for vetting them?
Time.com stated that the sites will now check subscribers against national sex offender registries and actively search for fake profiles. The rapid abuse reporting systems will give members access to a website, email address and/or phone number to report suspected criminal activity.
In 2011, 40 million Americans used an online dating service and spent more than $1 billion on online dating website memberships. Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.
With so many people turning to the internet to find love, it’s a good sign of progression that companies are taking steps to protect those seeking romance. In the same way that parents would background check a nanny, it seems reasonable that a young woman would want to background check a stranger that she may end up meeting, alone, at some point down the line.
Background checks for online dating has received plenty of support, and rightly so. Let’s hope that these three online dating giants will lead the way for all dating websites to follow suit.
Internet dating website Match.com settled a lawsuit last week with a member who was raped by pledging to perform security background checks on all members.
TV executive Carole Markin, 54, sued Match.com after she was sexually assaulted last year by a man she met on the site following their second date. Her date, 67-year-old Alan Paul Wurtzel of Pacific Palisades, had at least six prior sexual assualt convictions.
After the alleged assault, Markin says she went online and learned of the convictions. In her lawsuit, filed in April, Markin demanded that the site screen members against state and federal registries. Match.com President Mandy Ginsberg announced shortly after the lawsuit filing that the site would begin conducting criminal background checks on their users.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Match.com attorney Robert Platt said that the company has no legal obligation to screen members but believes that increased accessibility to these databases due to recent advances in technology “enables a significant degree of accuracy to implement this measure.”
Wurtzel pleaded no contest August 17 to felony sexual battery by restraint and faces one year in jail and five years’ probation when he is sentenced September 19.
You might recall a previous post regarding Match.com and background checks, where they promised to make changes to their subscription process – allowing for a safer environment. It seems that this is finally coming into practice.
Both current and future subscribers would face screening against the national sex offender registry, which could take months to implement. Markin said she decided to come forward to make sure “something like this” doesn’t happen to anyone else.
It’s another step forward in making online dating a safer place for people to go, and – with the dating giant Match.com implementing such safety nets – the hope is that many of the smaller dating sites will follow suit.
Back last September we ran a story regarding Match.com, and how many were calling for its members to face background checks prior to being able to register. Online dating checks have been discussed for years yet, at the time, Mandy Ginsberg – General Manager of Match.com claimed that “if we provide background checks, can they be accurate? And if they’re not, do we give a false sense of security to people on the site? That’s the big concern I have. If someone slips through the cracks… does that create more of a risk for people to not be more prudent?”
How times and opinions can change in just six months regarding these online dating checks. After a Los Angeles woman reported that she was raped by a man she met on the site, Match.com has agreed to introduce new screening policies for potential users. The LA Times reports that the site will now begin cross-checking users against a national sex-offender registry, despite the previous concerns that such a policy would not be foolproof and may provide a false sense of security.
Last week, Match.com release a statement regarding the online dating check changes they are implementing, claiming that despite their concerns, after talking to providers and advisers, company officials had finally decided to make a change. “We’ve been advised that a combination of improved technology and an improved database now enables a sufficient degree of accuracy to move forward with this initiative, despite its continued imperfection”, said Gindberg. “We want to stress that while these checks may help in certain instances, they remain highly flawed, and it is critical that this effort does not provide a false sense of security to our members” she continued.
Match.com claims it will take 60 – 90 days to implement the policy change.
Online dating checks are certainly nothing new – True.com has been implementing these checks since the sites conception. It seems that Match.com is only just catching up. They claim that the online dating check changes have been planned for a while, but there is no doubt that the lawsuit filed against them has certainly sped up these plans, if not perhaps created them altogether. Nonetheless, users should remember that background checks are not 100% accurate, and that they should still display caution when using the site and contacting other members.