Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
Today’s column is for every woman who’s dated a man who turned out to be married. Or a felon. Or a con artist. It’s for every man who discovered the woman who seemed too good to be true was. Or was a he. Or was looking for a green card. Or a sugar daddy.
The world is a dangerous place, and it’s not a bad idea to do a little snooping before you get too involved. Here’s some advice on how to do that from Candy, Ernie and Dottie.
Candy was an investigator and then worked in federal law enforcement. She says:
1. If you see a cell phone number you don’t recognize, you can check it out at Spy Dialer (www.spydialer.com). Type in the number. The website dials it and records the message. You can listen to it anonymously. It’s free.
2. Public records are invaluable. In most counties, including Cook, at the recorder of deeds website you can view deeds, mortgages, tax liens and judgments, etc.
3. You can search for names on the Clerk of the Circuit Court website. In Cook County, you can specify varying departments such as civil, law, chancery, domestic relations, etc. Although you can’t view the actual documents on the website, you can go to the court and request the file and sift through it for further information.
4. In my county in Indiana, with just a person’s name, you can find divorce filings, civil cases, even speeding tickets. There’s a small fee to see and print the actual document.
Ernie wanted to check out a woman he met online. He used a website called Instant Check Mate, which charges $22.86 for a one-month membership.
The site says it can provide criminal records, mug shots, addresses, home values, phone numbers, age, relatives, income and information on tax liens, judgments, lawsuits, marriages, divorces and more.
“I checked the accuracy by doing a search of myself. The website was off on my age by 14 months. They listed my late wife by name, but they didn’t say she had died in 1994. They listed a woman I had dated for a few years without any explanation.
“Under criminal record, they listed a DUI conviction for a man with the same name but much younger. Still under criminal record, they listed an arrest on March 9, 1974, for possession of liquor by a minor. I was anything but a minor on that day.
“They listed three addresses for me. Two were correct. They didn’t have the address where I spent my first 30 years. They also missed my marriage in 1971.”
Ernie doesn’t advise using Instant Check Mate to investigate others.
Dottie’s friend’s too-good-to-be-true boyfriend turned out to be married with four kids. She found this out by doing “a little investigative research.”
“She used a variety of Internet sites, but the county circuit court’s website was the nailer. It has records of marriages, divorces and lawsuits filed for child support among other things.
“Unfortunately, not all records are online, and if the person you’re searching for has a common name, there could be lots of records to sift through. She also used the white pages and located where he was living. His relatives were also listed. Facebook can be useful if someone has an account that isn’t blocked.
“It was a lot of work, but the more she investigated, the more she found.”
Send your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org.