Hearts On KeyboardWhen Kate started to occasionally flirt online with a man she didn't know, she viewed it as harmless fun on boring weekends. After all, she had been widowed three years earlier. She didn't yet feel ready to date. But for some reason, Kate did not feel the least bit threatened by the chance to act rather adolescent at home alone on the computer.

As the weeks and months went by, she found herself thinking more and more about Ernesto, her online friend. In the time they had communicated, Kate learned that Ernesto was a successful architect in Chili. He was divorced, childless and two years older than Kate. He loved to travel.

In fact, Ernesto planned a trip to the United States. When he asked Kate to meet with him, she was thrilled. A couple of weeks before Ernesto was set to arrive, Kate finally told her best friend, Jane, about her secret romantic interest. She was offended when Jane's reaction was a mixed bag of curiosity and paranoia. But as Jane spluttered about con artists targeting vulnerable women, Kate found herself feeling unsure.

Together, she and Jane sought the expertise of International Investigators and requested a background investigation of Ernesto. Kate provided investigators with every morsel of information that Ernesto had shared with her, such as his last name and the university he attended. But she did not recall hearing him say the name of his ex-wife or the name of his workplace. Kate wanted to believe those were innocent mistakes. She hid it well but Kate felt humiliated, and she certainly didn't want to view herself as a victim.

Accessing extensive data bases and using social media engineering, International Investigators learned a lot of facts about Kate's online beau. Ernesto owned several properties, not only in his native Chili but also in France and New York City. He had no children, no financial problems and no criminal history. Thankfully, Kate could greet her friend, confidently aware that Ernesto was exactly who he claimed to be.

As online match-up sites become more and more popular, savvy daters are turning to private investigators for assurance – or caution. Not everyone asks for a criminal background check or even an employment background check, but knowing what is fact and what is fiction paves the way for continuing a relationship.

Many people, especially older singles with good jobs and substantial savings consider a background check part of a due diligence approach to finding a life partner. It is becoming so common that many potential mates sign releases for a background investigation.

-T. Wilcox, CEO, International Investigators

-B. McGinley, Director of Operations, International Investigators