Knowing how to make someone prove they are real online is easier said than done and doing a “mental background check” likely isn’t the first thing on your mind.
Especially when there’s chemistry and you’ve created an emotional connection.
But you’re here because your gut is telling you to learn more before things get too serious. So:
- It’s normal to have these thoughts, and
- Good on you for taking the first step!
Here are our tips to help you separate fact from fiction and truly find out if this special someone is who they say they are.
Why You Should Do a Background Check on Someone You’re Dating
- Why would you look up an online love?
- Isn’t that sort of prying a bit creepy?
- Aren’t real relationships built on trust?
Here are two compelling reasons to background check someone you meet online…
In the online dating world, a catfish is a person who creates fake profiles on social media accounts using someone else’s information. Maybe they just want attention, or maybe they’re trying to lure you into sending them money or personal details.
The FTC found that nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam in 2022, which allegedly cost innocent people $1.3 Billion.
People don’t want to believe they’re being catfished. But especially if you’ve never met your long distance partner in person, there’s always a chance they’re hiding elements of the truth from you.
Other lives and hidden details
Even if you aren’t being catfished, your partner might choose to avoid telling you certain details about their life.
It could be something small and forgivable, like a few speeding tickets they’re embarrassed to mention. Or maybe it’s something big and concerning, like a recent DUI, drug charges, or a series of tax liens that might make it very difficult to buy a home together in the future.
At the end of the day, learning more about your partner’s background is totally your choice. But if your gut is telling you to learn more about them before things get too serious, here are some things you can do.
Background Check Style Questions to Make Someone Prove They Are Real Online
1. What do you do?
This question gets a bad rap sometimes as unimaginative and banal, but I think it’s hugely important.
What people do to earn a living tells you a lot about them. It can clue you in on what they’ve studied (or not studied), what they find interesting (or whether they’re trapped in a dead-end job they loathe), and what they spend a good chunk of every day doing and thinking about.
But don’t stop at just asking them what they do and then make assumptions what they think and feel about what they do.
You should be verifying the information they’ve given you is correct.
Ask more questions about basic stuff to confirm that they’re the person they say they are: Check birthdays, hometowns, the current city they live in, their job, and of course, their name.
Don’t forget to follow up!
Ask them what they love about what do, and what they find a drag about their studies or their job. Ask them where they see themselves in the future, or what their other hopes, dreams, and plans are.
2. What are some things you admire or respect about each of your parents?
Whether we like it or not, our family experiences have played a large role in shaping us in all sorts of ways – our likes and dislikes, our approach to communication and conflict, and what we instinctively consider to be “normal”.
If you’ve just met someone online that you’re interested in, the fact that they have a terrible or broken relationship with family members shouldn’t be an automatic deal breaker.
However. (You knew there was going to be a “however” didn’t you.)
If you date or marry this person, issues associated with their family of origin will rear their heads in your own relationships. You have a much better chance of recognizing these issues and tackling them productively if you understand something about your partner’s relationship with their immediate family. So, ask about it.
3. Tell me about times you’ve felt loved and appreciated. Tell me about times you feel you’ve “loved others well.”
How someone answers these questions can tell you a lot about their natural “love languages”–how they give and receive love.
How someone answers to these questions can give you clues about how to love them well, and also let you know how they may often try to express their love for you.
If someone is unable to answer these questions (or uncomfortable doing so) that can tell you important things as well.
How to Do an Online Dating Background Check
A full, exhaustive online dating background check can be expensive because it pulls past employment history, credit history, and criminal history—everything an employer would want to know about an employee.
But if you’re trying to corroborate details you know about your partner, there are far easier and less expensive ways to go on a fact-finding mission.
4. Meet in person as soon as possible
If you want to know how to make someone prove they are real online, meet them offline!
This will also help you gauge quickly whether there is any in-person chemistry. It can feel a lot more natural to ask and answer questions over a cup of coffee than virtually.
You also have more opportunities to:
- See whether someone’s words match their actions, and
- Ask them the same questions you did online to see if their answers match in person.
Meeting for the first time early in the process isn’t always feasible. So, what else can help you stay safe and date smart when you meet someone interesting online?
5. Google them
Naturally, google is the first place most of us turn when we’re trying to learn more about a person online. But nine times out of ten, just searching for a person’s name returns basic results like social media pages you already know about. And if you’re trying to find someone with a common name, you’ll probably be clicking through search results for ages.
So don’t just put in their name. Try searching:
- Their email address
- Their full name in quotes (like this “FULL NAME”) and additional phrases like: outstanding debt, divorce, girlfriend, boyfriend, criminal record, school, university.
Reader tip from Tammy
I wanted to find out if he had outstanding debt…so I googled his full name and “outstanding debt.” Other things were divorce, family names, criminal record, names of friends, public school, high school, places of employment, old girlfriends (and this was before Facebook), places he mentioned like his former street (not the address, just the street)… I took a lot of my cues from things that I read. So if I read about the kind of car he drove, I’d google his name and the car. I even got the VIN number of the car he was driving at the time (which was repossessed after I broke it off).
Sidenote from Lisa
Google is a great tool, but please, PLEASE keep in mind how shockingly easy it is to spread false information about someone or slander them online. Always take everything you read about someone online with a grain of salt unless you’re absolutely sure of the source and know you have the full story and accurate facts.
6. Search for social media profiles
Make sure you check all the common social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok etc). You can search for profiles on Facebook by using names, locations, and even groups (like the 1999 class of St. Andrew’s High School, for example).
Reader tip from Dalyce
If you can’t find someone online, but you know what city they live in, you can also try typing in their last name and what city they are in. You’d generally find a relative of theirs. Go through their friends list and find the person you are looking for who obviously has the search feature turned off or has changed their name slightly on Facebook.
Reader tip from Sharon
If you can get their email, or sometimes even just their phone number, you can do a search on Facebook. I had a guy last week tell me he was a widower with two small children living in the states. I ran his name through Facebook and his pic helped me find his profile. You then look to see what their friend list is like…males and females or just females. Look to see when their posts were made. All over the last month or last week or have they been active for a year or more. More than one pic in their profile? Look at who is liking their posts. His were all liked by Nigerian friends. Blocked immediately. They are even contacting people in online Scrabble games now.
7. Do a background check on LinkedIn
In addition to social media profiles, check them out on LinkedIn to get a view from a slightly different angle.
Reader tip from Tristan
LinkedIn is a great place to cross-check information. Not only can you see if stated information on a LinkedIn account matches other claimed info (ramifications of lying on LinkedIn are much higher than other social media accounts due to risk of consequences if your current or potential employer discovers fraudulent information), you can learn useful things as well, such as inferring d.o.b from dates attending school/starting work, confirming locations, claimed professions, etc. Also, the extent to which their profiles have been ‘endorsed’ by peers, while not flawless, is an indicator as to the veracity of their profile.
8. Run a reverse image search to check if someone is real
Before you spend too much time chasing rabbit trails on Google or searching social media sites, run a reverse image search on any images your significant other has sent to you, including their profile picture on dating profiles or their email account. If they’re catfishing you with stock photos or profile images from someone else’s account, a Google image search will return any other places the photo has been published.
Here’s how to do a reverse image search:
- Save a copy of their profile photo to your computer
- Go to images.google.com
- Click “upload an image”
- Either click through the search results to see where the image may have been posted elsewhere online, or explore the “visually similar images” section at the bottom of the page
Do they use the same profile photo for all of their social media accounts? That’s pretty harmless. But if their profile photo appears on some stranger’s Instagram timeline, something might be funky.
9. Do a county criminal record search (or equivalent if you’re outside the US)
Depending on the charge, criminal records aren’t necessarily a deal breaker in a relationship. But at the very least, you probably would want to know if you’re dating a felon, especially since a felony charge can get in the way of finding a job.
In the United States, criminal records are generally part of the public record, which means they are not considered confidential and you are able to view them. However, criminal records are recorded and filed differently depending on local laws. If you know the county or state your partner lives in, you may be able to view portions of their criminal history online. Just Google “state/county + criminal records” and search for sites with .gov in the URL.
For example, when you google “Maryland + criminal records,” one of the top results is the official website for the Maryland court system. From there, you can search case records with a person’s name. You can even narrow your search down by different counties and case types, such as criminal or traffic cases.
If your search comes up dry, it might be because the courthouse does not maintain an online criminal records database. In that case, you may have to pay a small administrative fee to request the documents in person. If that’s not possible, or if you’re not sure where your partner has lived in the past, check out the next step!
10. Do a public records search
If a DIY online dating background search isn’t generating the results you want, try a public records search website. Sites like Open Public Records or Instant Checkmate are designed to aggregate results from public records, turning information from tons of different sources into one report about the person you’re trying to research.
Keep in mind that these sites usually charge a fee to access information. Instant Checkmate even states that “almost any method of accessing public records involves payment” because people and companies have to pay to access the data.
But in return, you can save tons of time searching. You can narrow down your results by entering a person’s name, age, and location, and you can view details on everything from their real name and location to their criminal history.
Is your significant other lying about their age? Are they hiding aliases or nicknames? Does their background report include arrest records that give you pause? A public records search could reveal everything you want to know—or give you priceless peace of mind.
11. Check the sex offenders register (if available where they live)
If you find them on it remember that they could be on it because they were caught with the trousers down on a drunken night out, or they could be on it for different and much more serious reasons.
Obviously, if you find out the person that you’re in a long distance relationship with is on a sex offenders register, you’re going to be incredibly upset. However, it’s better safe than sorry and, it’s definitely better to find out this now before they could potentially harm you.
Now That You Know How to Find Out if Someone is Who They Say They Are…
These are the initial steps you should take.
- Use your communication skills and ask questions that provide enough information to give you a feel for who that person is.
- Continue to ask similar questions that should provide the same answers and see if anything changes.
- If your gut is still telling you something is off. Move to more invasive tactics by using the internet to search for information to correlate with what you’ve been told.
Starting this process isn’t easy. We want to believe that everyone has our best intentions at heart but it’s not always the case.
If you want a second opinion, we recommend you join our free LDR Support Group. You can ask questions and get amazing advice from other people that have had to deal with similar background check processes in their long distance relationships.