Saturday, June 20, 2009

Check Out Your E-mail Lover

Have you come to the point in your relationship with an online date where you want to check him/her out? Here is a step-by-step guide written by a professional background checker.

1. Their financial status including credit, job and assets.
2. Their marital status including wives, family, alimony and child support.
3. Their criminal history or lack thereof.

Here is a step-by-step guide to checking out those three most important things that most people want to know about an online date. (Note: The remainder of this article will be written from the perspective of a woman checking out a man because that is by far the most common check.)

Fact #1. Ordering a credit report on someone, even with their written permission, is not a permissible purpose. Therefore the credit bureaus will not issue the report to you. If you should be able to find someone who will run a credit report for you illegally, that person can receive a substantial fine per incident. (A more immediate result would be the revocation of credit report services by the credit reporting bureau.) The simple way around this is to have the person obtain his own credit report and give you a copy or let you see the original.

Verifying a job is easy. First you need to get the "facts" from your boyfriend. Remember that you are verifying the information not getting new information from the employer. They will verify the info you have, but will not give out new info. Those facts should include his job title and dates of employment as a minimum. While few larger companies give out salary info you can still get a wealth of other info. Look for a help wanted for the same profession in the same locale to get an idea of the salary range. When doing this we always ask an open ended question at the end, after we've received all of the basic information. The question would be something like this, "What can you tell us about his competency, character or job performance?" With a question like that you might get a response like the following: "There are no disciplinary actions in his file, but doing his payroll is a pain because his pay is garnisheed because of alimony and child support payments." It is an urban myth that you (or an employer) can't ask certain questions of a previous employer. Nonsense; you can ask whatever you want. The previous employer doesn't have to answer, but there's no harm asking.

To check his assets you would probably start with his home. Many, if not most counties have online searchable property tax assessment records. With the address you can easily get an approximation of the property's value. It may be mortgaged to the hilt, but that info is much more difficult to obtain. If the information is not available online it will require a trip to the county Assessor's Office to get the pertinent data. Remember, you need the address to look up the records. You can also check with local realtors to see what houses are worth in his neighborhood.

Fact #2. Checking marital status is very difficult outside of their home county. Here's why. Most people get married in the city and county where they live. Logic would tell us that that makes sense. And, for purposes of checking, that is easy to check. Conversely, most people get divorced where they live too.

The problem is that one county does not have a record of what happens in another county. For example: Let's say a couple gets married in New York City. That marriage is recorded in New York County. If they subsequently move to Oshkosh, Wisconsin and later get divorced there, Winnebago County Wisconsin does not notify New York County of the divorce. As far as New York County is concerned, they are still married. Now, let's suppose that the man goes to Las Vegas and gets married again. Clark County, Nevada doesn't check to see if he is already married in Wisconsin or New York or anywhere else before the marriage license is issued. Now if you were checking for his marriage records, where do you check?

Now here's where it really gets fun. What's to stop them from getting divorced in Reno or worse yet, in Mexico? It turns out that Guam has a cottage industry of providing quickie divorces. Because Guam is a US Territory, divorces must be recognized in all US states. Should you check Guam too? What about checking out a woman's marriage/divorce records; which current or maiden name do you look up? This is why those marriage checks online are basically worthless. They only check where the person currently lives.

For child support and alimony you would have to search civil records in the jurisdiction where the divorce occurred.

Fact #3. Criminal records can be searched by anyone anytime. You don't even have to be a citizen to request public criminal records. Again, the trick is knowing where to search. Most people think that those online database companies check everything everywhere. You know, the ones that say Instant or Free criminal checks. Not so. They only get records where they can get them for free and most of the time that is from a state's Department of Corrections, the state prison system. This means that in these states you are only getting felony convictions where they were sentenced to prison. A person could have a long history of misdemeanor crimes or an acquittal of a felony and you would get no record of it. In about half of the country records must still be searched in person at the county Superior or District Courthouse. Wherever this is the case, you get no records at all when using those instant search companies.

Do it yourself. If your online lover is local, go to your local Superior or District court and go to the criminal court clerk's office and tell the clerk that you would like to do a criminal records search on a person. You will need to have his full name and date of birth. Ask the clerk if the courts are consolidated in your county. Consolidated courts have records of all the other courts in that county so you only have to search in one place. If he is not local, you may want to use the services of a professional background checker to check each location (jurisdiction) where he has lived.

Here's another problem. People tell me all the time that their county court offers online searches that they can search for free and the person they are checking lives in that county. Sounds great! And yes, it is true that there are many places in the country where this is possible, the problem is, how long has he lived in that county and where was he from before that? For all you know, he has only lived there a few weeks and before that he lived in another state where he was just released from prison.

And another: Criminal Checks do not include civil court checks. If a person has a restraining order against him from his ex wife or girlfriend, that is recorded in civil court, not criminal court. A criminal search does not reveal such records.

A professional reference checker's trick. If you are able to get references from him you're going to love this. My company has been doing background checks since July 1994. Over these years we've learned many, many tricks to getting info from a variety of sources. Years ago while doing FAA and NRC background checks we were contracted to conduct reference checks on job applicants. Under the federal requirements we were required to do what I call a Reference Double Check. Here's how it works: On the job application the applicant was asked to list three personal references. We contact each of those three references by phone and ask them if they know someone who knows the "applicant" as well as they do. Or goal is to get three references that are not listed on the application and get a "real" reference from each of them.

My company has done thousands and thousands of reference checks, but these were different and we have used this technique many times. Since no one has ever listed a personal reference that will not say wonderful things about them, this is a great way to get to someone who might actually say something revealing about the applicant. Using this method we would often get ex wives, disgruntled employees or employers, angry neighbors, in-laws, etc.
Remember that it is perfectly legal to get all of the above info (except credit) and more on anyone anytime you feel like it. Where the laws come into play is how you use the info. If you are using the info for private personal reasons like a relationship you are free to do so.
Kit Fremin is the owner and founder of Background Check International. Since 1994 BCI has served clients as varied as: the LA Times, Department of Defense, Mars, Inc., the UN, the NTSB and Calvary Chapels nationwide. His website is: and he can be e-mailed at

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