A Texas law passed in 2011 hopes to bring a higher level of safety to the online dating community by stipulating that online dating websites must disclose to their users whether or not background checks are performed on its members.
The Texas Internet Dating Safety Act, authored by State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, must also inform users what type of background check they perform as well as publish dating safety tips on their websites.
“My intention was to make it safe for people who use the dating sites, to have some level of scrutiny,” Van De Putte said. “The criminal background checks aren't 100 percent fool proof, but at least you know whether they've done one or not.”
At the time Van De Putte was writing the legislation, she said only about three dating websites actively provided that information.
“We needed to make sure that there was at least some public policy that said there's a bare minimum, if these sites are going to profit from being a collective spot for potential dates,” Van De Putte said.
One user, who simply goes by the name of “Erica,” said she knows firsthand the perils of online dating, after she was scammed $1,000 from a man she met on an online dating website.
“When you start getting on there, you see all these good looking men, and then once they see your pictures and they hit on you, it's complimenting. You like it. It's like somebody interested in you, not knowing what's on the other end,” Erica said.
Erica said her story is just one demonstration of how users must be cautious online, as many users can prey on vulnerable love-seekers.
“I felt really stupid, I felt taken advantage of. I even called SAPD and I reported it,” Erica said.
Though the law does not protect against scam artists like in Erica’s case, Van De Putte said it gets people thinking about how to stay safe.
“I wish I could pass a law that could stop preying on people for financial gain, but the fact of the matter is, there are going to be unscrupulous people who use any sort of forum, whether that be an internet site, a banking site, or any connection to try and financially gain,” Van De Putte said.
Though the Internet Dating Safety Act does not require online dating websites to perform background checks, if they are performed, they are most likely checking for sex offenders, felons, or people family violence convictions, as opposed to scammers, who can fabricate their profiles.