So what movie did I watch over the weekend? Yep, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. With 3 boys, ages 8, 9 and 12, there was no way to escape this movie. I also admit I had been wanting to see it for several weeks. As I was settling in with my $8 bag of popcorn and fumbling in the dark for my smuggled-in bottle of water from my wife’s purse, I was thinking about Match.com’s most recent legal trouble. I am sure by now you have heard or read about a California woman suing Match.com after she was sexually assaulted by someone she had met on the popular dating site. The perpetrator was a convicted sex offender. And like most online dating services, Match.com was not conducting background checks of their members.
I thought about the title of the movie and how Match.com’s approach to background checks was also wimpy.
Why wimpy? Well, for starters the internet is the Wild West 2.0. A wide open and unregulated place where you can be whoever you want to be. Have you heard Brad Paisley’s song Online? He admits he is 5’3’, overweight, lives in his parent’s basement, works at the Pizza Pit and drives an old Hyundai…. but online he is 6’5, looks dang good, a black belt in karate, drives a new Maserati and lives in Hollywood.
So who really is that person behind the online profile?
This is a huge dilemma for online dating services. How do you know who is behind that smiling profile? Is the photo real? Is it a real name? Do they drive a Maserati or a Hyundai? We do not know under the current process.
What we do know is that 50% or more of job seekers falsify their resumes so should we expect anything less from those seeking love?
The knee jerk reaction of Match.com is to implement background checks of their members based on a name comparison with the National Sex Offender Registry. The online dating service indicated they had been planning to implement background checks for some time but had not because they feared the checks might provide a false sense of security.
So what has changed now? For one, a lawsuit. However, beyond the sexual assault and legal action, nothing has changed with the sex offender registry. It may be a good tool to include in a background screening package but it is not sophisticated enough to stand alone as a background screening program.
Why? Because sex offender registries:
- Are not up to date
- Do not contain all sex offender records
- Might only include certain classifications of sex offenders
- May only require sex offenders to register for a fixed number of years
- Do not contain sexual assault cases that are plea bargained to lesser offenses
- May have limited identifiers and no photos
Dating services like Match.com need to provide comprehensive criminal background checks. The checks could be as little as $17 and provide protection against online predators with previous criminal convictions. Yes, we may never honestly know what the person drives from the profile but it would provide a clear picture of a member’s criminal history such as assaults, domestic violence, burglary, fraud, identity theft, drug offenses and many other crimes that could be used to harm or defraud members.
The bottom line is a free check of the National Sex Offender Registry does very little to reduce the risk of Match.com being manipulated by predators. If an online dating service wants to set itself apart as the leader in the industry they should offer comprehensive criminal background checks. Match.com’s approach is the equivalent of throwing a cup of water at a forest fire. It will not make an impact.
If you organization is relying on a wimpy background screening process, Contact Safe Hiring Solutions for a thorough evaluation.
Do you think online dating services do enough to protect their members?