As we enter the new millennium the Internet is evolving into a major meeting ground, one that affords us access to people all over the world and draws us daily into online relationships with individuals we have not yet met.
An increasing number of people are using the Internet to meet and get acquainted with potential mates.
While many of those online interactions do bloom into friendships and relationships, a small number do not have happy endings Beth Wadsworth learned this lesson the hard way.
When Wadsworth began exchanging emails with Thomas Abney, she thought she, too, might have found love on the Internet.
It turns out that what she had really found was a dangerous man who would try to kill her.
Wadsworth met Abney in 1999 while surfing the Web. The two hit it off and began corresponding.
"We just started talking and trading information about our lives," says Wadsworth. "
We seemed to have the same values and morals."
After only one month of emailing each other, Wadsworth invited her potential new love to visit her.
Abney flew to San Diego, where Wadsworth lives, and the two spent some time getting to know each other off-line.
Abney wasn't who he appeared to be, however.
When the visit was coming to an end, he turned violent without warning. "He jumped on me and started strangling me," Wadsworth remembers. "I was totally in shock."
When it was over, Abney had attacked Wadsworth with a claw-hammer and slit her throat with a steak knife. He then took Wadsworth's wallet and car keys, leaving her for dead.
"I don't remember being hit, but I had three gashes in my skull," Wadsworth says. "He probably thought I was dead when he left."
Beth wasn't dead, however.
She managed to call ‘911’ for help, and Abney was arrested at the airport.
He was eventually convicted of premeditated attempted murder, robbery, and auto theft and was sentenced to life plus 14 years in prison.
"I felt pretty stupid that I'd let this stranger into my house, and this is what happened," Wadsworth says. "I will never meet anybody on the Internet again."
While the dangers faced by Wadsworth and other singles aren't unique to online dating, the anonymous nature of the Internet does make it easier for people to be deceptive about who they are.
With the concerns—and dangers—of meeting others in this manner rising exponentially, it is no surprise that one website has already clicked with millions of netizens: WhoisHe.Com and WhoisShe.Com, a professional service designed to verify if persons are who they purport to be.
Are they married?
How old are they?
Have they ever used an alias?
Are they really a doctor? Do they have any bankruptcies, liens or judgments against them?
Do they have a criminal record? Have they committed domestic violence?
Are they a registered sexual offender? A pedophile?
“Know what you are getting into before you invest your heart, money, or your life,” says Linda Alexander, a Southern California attorney and website founder.
WhoisHe.Com, which works under the motto, "When in Doubt, Check Them Out," offering background checks, personal profiles, criminal and civil record checks for potential mates, prospective employees, in-home service providers, future step-parents, business partners and nannies.
The cost of the service provided by WhoisHe.Com and WhoisShe.Com range from $39 to $75.
"About 60 percent of the time, we find that people aren't telling the truth," Alexander claims.
Background checks, criminal and civil record checks are important, according to Alexander, because it's easy to be deceived when looking for love online.
"You do not have the same visual cues about someone as when you are face to face with a person," she says. "Somebody behind a computer screen, can be anything they want to be.
You have no idea who's on the other side of that screen.
We tell our clients it is important to Be Safe and Be Smart. To take control of your future. Information is the key."
A similar check could have helped Wadsworth. For instance, Abney had told Wadsworth that he had never been married, but Alexander found a civil record for a divorce.
Alexander says that background and record checks would have revealed that Abney had lied about many personal details, which might have served as a warning to Wadsworth.
"It tells her that the man is not telling the truth," Alexander asserts. "He's a liar. He has something to hide in his life. I don't know if it tells her that he's going
to swing a hammer over her head and that he's going to beat her almost to death, but I think it is enough to say, 'Watch out, red flag, don't let this man in the door.'"
These warning come too late for Wadsworth, who is currently taking a break from romance and the Internet while she works to recover from the physical and emotional wounds she has suffered. "I sleep with the light on every night," she says. "It's affected me."
While more and more singles are turning to the Internet to meet their mates and many online dating stories do have happy endings, it is important to remember that there are dangers to digital love. Wadsworth hopes that what she went through will help to warn others of those dangers.
About the Author: WhoisHe.Com and WhoisShe.Com has been widely recognized on CBS’ “48 HOURS" and the CBS Early Show; The Other Half,in People Magazine, listed in Yahoo Internet Life Magazine's top 100 sites for the Year 2000, Seventeen Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Kiplinger Magazine, and USA Today. Anyone harboring doubts about anyone else can check out the website at http://WhoisHe.Com and at http://WhoisShe.Com and questions can be sent to Admin@WhoisHe.Com or call Linda Alexander, Esq. at 760-806-4377.