Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What it is I do - the nitty gritty

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Have a qualified PI check out that online paramour before meeting in person!

Online dating can be dangerous –

have a qualified PI check out that person!


With increasing regularity, we are seeing news reports of people who encounter other people in online dating chat groups or singles forums, met them in person, and were either assaulted, raped, or killed.

The most recent high-profile case causing concern is that of Philip Markoff, the Boston medical student who ran across a woman online through Craigslist's erotic services section, met her in person, and shot her. The arrest of the alleged "Craigslist killer" this past April set off a nationwide furor about the lack of safety precautions at online dating sites.

Craigslist, which previously permitted online advertisements for escort services, has reduced that danger footprint by banning such ads after U.S. Attorneys throughout the country applied pressure to do so. But other online web sites have arisen to advertise these illegal services that pose unknown dangers to the women involved, and sometimes to men as well.

Beyond online advertising for prostitution and escort services, the Internet features numerous dating and social networking sites where people can put up ads to meet others.

"Many people use these sites and meet wonderful people online. However, many others meet liars, people cheating on their wives or husbands, and even predators who use the power of the Internet to lure their victims," said Dave Pettinari, a Pueblo County private investigator. Pettinari who owns TAC Forensics and Investigations. Pettinari highly recommends that anyone considering dating online, especially if a face-to-face meeting is contemplated, get a thorough background check on that person prior to meeting.

The Safer Online Dating Alliance reports that MySpace recently removed 90,000 accounts after it was learned the sites belonged to registered sex offenders. That is a significant portion of the known one million registered sex offenders in the U.S.

Pettinari said that a qualified private investigator has the knowledge and resources to quickly determine if the person has a criminal background or whether he or she is using a fake name or providing false information to the person contemplating meeting that person.

Estimates are that 40 million single Americans are looking for soul mates using online dating services or web-networking sites such as MySpace, Match.com, Facebook, and Craigslist. These sites have a simple signup process that does not allow for vetting or screening of information. In other words, the person can provide false information to open an account – a fake name, a tough-to-trace e-mail address, and false information about work background, interests, and activities.

"People can be anyone they want to be over the Internet," Pettinari said, even to the point of providing photos that are not of that person. "When people are looking for romance, they are often not as guarded and careful as they should be about selecting appropriate potential partners. Liars, sexual predators, and even murderers can hide their true intent behind seemingly harmless online identities.

"If you were to meet someone like this in a bar, you might immediately have the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and know to stay away from them!
Online dating sites are resistant to procedures that would ferret out the creeps who would prey on others, saying it would put a major dent in their online business activities. So it is up to the consumer of these services to take care of their own safety."

After the Craigslist killer arrest,
Craigslist was hit with another scandal when a North Carolina man used the site to hire a man to rape his wife while the husband watched. Pettinari also mentioned cases where men have raped women they met over the Internet after slipping drugs into their drinks, and men who have swindled women they met on line under pretenses of romance. After gaining their confidence, they run up charges on their credit card, open accounts in their name, even purchase automobiles before they disappear with the ill-gotten assets.

While the vast majority of victims are women, some men also have been victimized, often by men who pose as women. They either rob or harm the man who responds in person to their online virtual conversations.

"Regardless of where you live in the country, you can find a reputable private investigator who specializes in running background checks on potential Internet dates," said Pettinari. "Generally, the costs run from $100 to $200, depending on the depth of the background investigation. While not cheap, this is money well spent to protect a woman or man from a nutso stalker, or from physical or sexual abuse or murder. Such checks will also let the customer know right away whether or not the intended paramour is married or truly single."

Pettinari said few dating sites require background checks for felonies prior to allowing people to sign up for an account. But one site that does is True.com, which also screens its millions of members to determine whether or not they are married. True.com recently sued a convicted California sex offender who tried to register himself as an eligible bachelor.

Pettinari, who met his wife 14 years ago through a date-match ad in a local newspaper, said anyone contemplating getting together should always meet in public for the first few dates, as he and his wife did.

The Safer Online Dating Alliance warns women on its website never to post photos of their children, nor to describe them in detail, saying that single mothers who openly say they seek partners who like children have inadvertently attracted pedophiles.

"While I would not totally discourage men and women from going online to meet others, as I did it myself when I was single, I would encourage them to do it very circumspectly, and with utmost concern for their own safety," said Pettinari.


Dave Pettinari

Colorado computer forensic examiner and private investigator