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Last fall I did some chatting on a dating app with a guy I hoped to meet. Here’s what: Just after 10 he texted that he was at a restaurant around the corner—and he pulled into my driveway two minutes later. Many of those lies are mild, like under-reporting weight or over-reporting wealth, but some are full-on “catfishers” – which according to Urban Dictionary are “Internet predators that fabricate online identities …He had a job, he had an adorable pooch—and he was friends with people I knew in the flesh. to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships.”When I started dating again for the first time in 13 years, I realized I needed a strategy for uncovering the truth about romantic candidates, especially since the apps I was using—OKCupid, Tinder, and Meet Mindful—did not verify users.Don’t be in a rush to friend someone on Facebook, which gives them access to a lot more personal information about you, your family, and your work.

That way I would have their cell number, which I know from my previous reporting can be used to find out just about anything about you.

Eric Silverberg, CEO of Scruff, a dating app for gay men, didn’t think my plan was too smart.“If you switch [from the app] to text messaging, there’s no community support to protect you and it’s going to be much harder for you to get help if there’s ever some kind of issue.” He reminded me “to be thoughtful and cautious about who you share your number with.”Mark Brooks, editor of Online Personals Watch.com, a dating news and commentary site, also cautioned me: “Full verification is not possible outside of actual real world matchmakers who often use background checks.”Brooks added: “Beware of jumping to a third-party form of communication.

One fellow got upset when I didn’t want to see him again and Googled me.

Angry, he deluged me with personal information he’d discovered.

That was puzzling until I reached out to Thomas Martin, president of Martin Investigative Services, who explained: “Could be a number of factors.

The most common is a burner phone, or they went to great lengths not to have their number in anyone’s system.” (Burner phones are generally used for one reason, such as a drug deal or clandestine relationship, then dumped.) When I couldn't confirm someone’s identity, I backed away.

After I’d get a guy’s phone number, I’d run it through the “reverse lookup” feature and voilà!

I had his full name, home address, real age, and more.

The officer told me to keep copies of his disturbing emails, block him on social media, and tell him firmly to leave me alone. I now give out that number instead of my real cell. The take-away: There’s no reason to give out a phone number before meeting. Remember conventional wisdom: Meet in a public place, let a friend know ahead where you’ll be, and plan to check in after.

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