Are you chatting to someone online or IRL (in real life) who seems attractive, but you get the feeling they're not who they say they are?
New Zealanders in the dating game can now get a private investigator to run a background check on their potential love interest with a service called Date Check.
Lawyer and private investigator Chéney McGlynn is its creator – she's an ex-police officer who now specialises in 'skip tracing' – tracking down people who've skipped on debt.
Romance-wise, Chéney is fine herself – she met her loving husband in a cafe – but she realised there was a market for a service like Date Check after her single female friends kept getting her to check out guys whose story doesn't seem to quite add up
'Catfish' is the word used to describe a person who pretends to be someone else online, usually to present themselves as a potential love interest.
The term was popularised by the American TV series of the same name, co-hosted by Nev Schulman who was himself 'catfished'.
Chéney says one of her friends was catfished by a guy she met online through work who told her was unmarried, childless and a successful businessman.
"When she asked him to send through photos they were was always a bit fuzzy and Chéney thought the person in them looked suspiciously like someone famous.
"It turns out [the guy] was actually on home detention with a bracelet round his ankle."
While anyone can check someone else's identity online to some extent, it helps to know where to look and which rabbit holes to go down, she says.
Private investigation has moved on a lot from the stereotypical image of a middle-aged white man sitting in a car or crouching in a bush with a long-range camera lens on his camera, she says.
Date Check charges under $100 to confirm someone's identity with a discreet, online background check conducted by a licensed private investigator, Chéney says, and its investigators obtain all of their information legally using the public record and never breach the Privacy Act.
She hopes the service will help those looking for love get the full picture before they get in too deep with someone.
"If you're investing time in this relationship and you think you could see a possible future with this person, then I would definitely recommend [Date Check].
"I don't want to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. I don't want them to come to me after the heartbereak or the scam or the catfish.
"If we do a search and we dont find anything, that's fabulous, isnt it?"
You can find out more at www.datecheck.nz.
Chéney's red flags for dating:
- Does the person have more than one phone?
- Do they make a point of not answering the phone in front of you?
- Are they cagey about where they live?
- Have you met any of their friends?