Brian O’Shea has a story he likes to tell: an Arlington woman met a guy online, and they hit it off. Eventually things were going well enough for them to meet in person, and when she gets to his house, a middle-aged woman answers. It turns out, the woman at the door was her online beau’s mother.
He was 13.
These are the perils of online dating O’Shea is trying to prevent. O’Shea is a private investigator with Striker-Pierce, which started offering comprehensive online dating background checks in November. Before launching the service, O’Shea researched the background checks several online dating sites were offering and found they didn’t go very far.
“We purchased these reports [the sites offered], and they were really substandard. I really felt they were putting people in danger when they did these reports,” O’Shea said. “When we do these checks, we actually make a call to a second- or third-removed acquaintance and get a feel for the person. In addition we try to get a cyber footprint on them and what they’re doing online to make sure they’re not involved in anything too shady. We try to look out for the warning signs instead of the black-and-white criminal records.”
Since O’Shea started offering the service, it’s grown in popularity, he said. He’s run the gamut of calls, too, from 25 to 60 year olds, from people having just met to people doing one last double-check before getting married to someone they met online.
Sometimes he fields calls from parents who aren’t as trustworthy of online dating sites as their children, but more often than not, O’Shea tends to “coach the parents toward letting their children in their mid-20s go.”
O’Shea isn’t seeking to expose some dark truth about the online dating world. On the contrary, he has good news for those who have met someone online and haven’t used his company.
“I would say in most cases, thankfully, we’re just basically proving what they already know,” about the other person, O’Shea said.
Striker-Pierce charges a $200 flat fee for the service. What does a typical investigation unearth when O’Shea finds the subject has been dishonest?
“We find a lot of embellishment; height, weight, education, success, and it doesn’t necessarily disrupt the relationship but it gives people a transparent view,” O’Shea said. “We also find a lot of people who say they love dogs or cats and don’t. People say they own dogs when they don’t to attract dog lovers.”
O’Shea declined to say if any particular dating site attracted more dishonest members than others, but said the sites that ask more questions tend to attract more honest users.
“The sites that ask you the fewest questions are going to open themselves up to that,” he said. “As a joke, I made a profile on one of these sites as an Eskimo caveman who lives in the desert, and they let me put the profile up.”
Twenty-five to 35 year olds tend to be the most dishonest age group, O’Shea said.
“Well,” he said. “Not counting the 13 year olds.”