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.