How to investigate someone online, without paying a fortune

Here’s the situation: A relative has fallen in love with someone online. They are planning to marry, but they have never met. Every time they are scheduled to meet, some huge health crisis or other awful event happens. No money to speak of has been spent, except perhaps a ring. The mystery girl is a wealthy orphan. Clueless boy is in the military and not free to just pick up and travel at will right now. Girl has Facebook page, and has even changed her last name to his in anticipation of their marriage. The latest plan was she would drive up to see him, and get married a few days later. She has health problems, and didn’t show because she was in the hospital. Didn’t contact him the whole time she was ill.

I know! It sounds so fishy, even with those few details…the details of all the horrendous things that happened each time she tries to visit him would make your head spin, including a best friend’s uncle committing suicide by driving the wrong way on a highway and killing a pregnant motorist!

Thing is, the boy is crazy in love, parents live too far away to snoop. So aunt wants to do some investigating online to see if she can find out if this girl is for real. She’s not sure if this is her place, but she feels compelled to help stop a train wreck. Since calling the hospitals involved wouldn’t work, and checking news reports for a pregnant motorist killed wouldn’t provide a link to the mystery girl…I mean, anyone can take a headline about a tragedy and pretend they are best friend’s with a relative of one of the people.

You hear about people investigating their dates online all the time. What online tools are used to do this when all you know is a name and location? Are there free sites for this, or does everything require money? Is there truly anything the aunt could research to discover if this girl really exists, or if she’s just a fake identity created by some crazy middle-aged obese handicapped woman tucked into a trailer in the hills?

And one would hope that members of this boy’s military unit would dopeslap him into reality when he informs them he’s planning to marry someone he’s not met yet who keeps avoiding meeting him.

Google didn’t turn up anything?

You need to find out where the girl lives and perhaps where she has lived previously. Most courts have their records online and you can find them by going to the local courts’ Web sites.

Won’t help if the girl is lying about everything but you might also hit the mother lode.

I don’t think that online investigations will do much good. Clueless boy isn’t going to believe anything. MAYBE if a licensed private detective does an investigation on her, and shows Clueless Boy how she took three other men to the cleaners, he’ll take a good hard look at all the red flags here.

I don’t know if she’s a golddigger, or some teenybopper who’s trying to get him to commit without revealing that she’s only 13, or what. But something reeks.

You should be able to at least confirm that this happened by searching the locale’s newspapers…

except, as I said, anyone can pull a story from their local paper and claim to be best friend’s with a relative of the deceased. And the incident might not have happened where the mystery girl says she lives. The uncle…no wait, it was the best friend’s father…could have been anywhere in the country.

Mystery girl supposedly rented an apartment for them before her last attempted visit…but boy didn’t share the details, so don’t know if it actually happened.

Okay, guys, it’s my nephew we’re talking about…I just looked on facebook and she has changed her photo to two flamingos. There at least used to be a picture of a very pretty girl. She shares info with no one except friends and I am not a friend of hers.

I know her first and last name and the town she lives in. That’s it.

What’s the town? I’ll find the court records sites for you.

Privacy laws have been stiffened to the point you won’t find much out.

When I worked in a bail bonds agency as a temp, a minimal background check would cost $29.00. It would go back and tell you basic things like a driver’s abstract, open court cases, criminal background and it’d go back five years.

Of course the more you pay the more you can find out.

One thing to beaware of online databases, even if you pay are not absolute. I have had to go downtown to Cook County and found things that for some reason were not online. They’re in the court records but for some reason don’t make it to an online database.

Unless she’s been prosecuted for something you still won’t find anything about her motives.

And good people have bad remarks on histories. When I worked in H/R I can’t tell you the number of applicants that had things like “illicit behavior” or other weirdly phrased things on their criminal background. I asked a cop about this and he said “It means she got drunk at a college party and flashed her breasts in public.”

Hardly the crime of the century or something to be scared about.

When I worked at the bond agency if I had to contact a “failure to appear” I would take their photo (the agency always had photos) and make a fake myspace or facebook page and someone eventually came to me, thinking I was that person.

OK now this is highly unethical, and maybe illegal, but obviously a failure to appear is now a felon and isn’t likely to do anything about it.

I wouldn’t suggest it but I’m telling you this because the best way to find out about people is to get to their friends. Even well meaning friends will expose someone.

For example when I checked personal references in H/R, when I first started I thought, this is a waste of time, why would someone put down a reference that will say bad stuff.

Well you’d be surprised how often the reference said, negative things about the applicant. Usually it was unintentional but it happened enough to make checking worthwhile.

So I would find out who her friends are on Facebook and try to become friends with them and slowly work them for information. SLOWLY or they’ll know.

She has three friends. My nephew, his brother (also my nephew) and my sister.

My sister has dropped it and decided to believe the story and/or trust her son. She does not want to pursue it further.

A normal person on FB has more than three friends.

Should I poke her on FB? Should I try to be friends with her?

Should I butt out?

She is most likely lying like a rug…

There’s no other reason why she wouldn’t be meeting in person.
It could be a minor lie (she’s 17, not as attractive as the pictures, she’s older than claimed, etc)

Or it could be major (not female, not single, doesn’t live on claimed continent, is scamming him in one or more ways, aka the “woman tucked into a trailer in the hills”!)

Free ways to investigate identity may not always work with younger folks, but it my world I would expect that anyone I would date online would have at least one of the following: e-mail addresses to match work or school, there might be real estate or phone # listings, a Facebook or other social or professional network with actual friends, relatives, colleagues, etc.

There should be some proof that she exists in ways that are externally verifiable, in other words.

It’s possible that the nephew knows what is going on and is not sharing the info…

Would anyone thank you if you were to find out negative info (are you on good terms with the people involved?) It’s up to you to think about, weigh the implications for yourself.

Virginia Beach

if you want to PM me any info you have I still have access to a couple people hunting DB’s.

I think the goals are: I don’t want him to be hurt and I don’t want him to lose money. Okay, he has no money to lose. He does not come from a background of money. There is nothing for this girl to get from him unless she is trying to get the medical benefits of the spouse of a person in the military.

So, I do not want him to be hurt. If I found out the truth and tell him it will appear that I was the one who did the harm. And he will be embarrassed. I guess eventually the truth will come out.

That is extremely fishy. I mean, so is everything else, but this part stinks of something not right.

How did Boy and Girl “meet”? I know online, but where online?

I don’t know how they met.

Lillith, I don’t know how to say this nicely, but I’ll try: If your nephew is ignoring giant flashing warning signs, then he is unlikely to either listen to you or to care about anything you manage to dig up about her. In fact, trying to do so is very highly likely to make him feel defensive about his decision and choice, withdraw from you, and, I’d wager, rationalize his decision to himself even further.

I would very seriously advise you to drop the whole investigative snooping idea, and make sure your nephew feels you’re a sounding board and trusted confidante rather than one more voice in what is likely a cacophany of “Noooo! Don’t do it!” If you’ve never voiced your concerns to him at all, then do it. Once. Then - and I know it won’t be easy - you’re going to have to drop the matter, or risk driving him away. (If he does go through with the marriage and she’s everything she smells like, she’ll probably isolate him quite thoroughly.)

Sounds like you have a good heart and that the decision is made - we can’t always protect people from a fall!

It’s possible she’s just looking for attention, in which case the only harm will be the heartbreak : (