Three major dating websites Match.com, e-Harmony, and Spark Networks—have agreed to screen for sex offenders.
As tens of millions of Americans turn to online sites to find their perfect match, the sites are turning up their security—promising to do what they can to eliminate predators.
It’s a fast past world and dating can be tough; it’s sending an estimated 40 million Americans online. “I've developed my own little system to get to know them better before I meet someone,” says Fresno online dater Tamy Gibson. Gibson says she’s been finding dates via Match.com for years and has enjoyed it.
Despite good experiences, daters and experts say it's tough for to know who's talking back. “The computer is a sexual predator’s dream come true,” says Fresno State’s social media expert Dr. Tamyra Pierce.
Online dating dangers are prompting sites to check client’s backgrounds—Match.com, e-Harmony, and Spark Networks signed a joint statement. The sites will check their subscribers against national sex offender registries, provide online safety tips, and offer quick ways to report abuse. The measures also promise to help protect against identity theft and financial scams. “If there are red flags, I don't go. I have blocked people from my profile; there have been times when I’d rather not pursue anything or them me,” laughs Gibson.
Experts warn even if you hit it off on the first or second date, don't be too trusting. “I pulled up a story of an individual who used a false name and on the 2nd date he attacked the young lady,” says Pierce.
In an attempt to combat the attacks, the three major dating sites hope their tougher stance on safety will inspire other sites to follow suit. “This is one element that's wonderful; its one level protecting the consumer but it’s not the cure all,” says Pierce.
The push for safety was prompted by the California attorney general's office. Concern arose from a 2010 case involving a Los Angeles-area woman who was assaulted by a man she met on Match.com.
Last year Americans spent more than $1 billion on memberships to dating sites.
Christina Lusby Reporting.