The Internet abounds with on-line dating services. Some are free, some charge a subscription fee. They all promise to deliver that special someone. Once in a while, they deliver the unexpected, a sexual predator.

DatingService.com lists the most popular sites, with such diverse names as the suggestive Get it On to the tamer sounding Friend Finder. Topping the popularity list is Match.com.

Match.Com Online BannerDating service methodology across the board consists of a questionnaire and a computer program that runs an algorhythm to find where your answers best match with those of another individual. Match.com lets you decide how fast you think you will find someone you are attracted to. It has several package prices ranging from one month to six months. A three month subscription runs $22.99 each month. Signing up for six months costs less per month at $19.99/mo, or approximately $120. The longer membership guarantees you?ll find "a special person" if you follow the rules which include communicating with five prospective dates each month. So basically they are playing a numbers game. Like the old salesperson?s adage: Knock on 10 doors, make 1 sale.

Some on-line dating services specialize, for example by religious or ethnic preference. One site, Christian Dating Service exists simply to review other sites proclaiming to follow that particular belief system. eHarmony.com which places second on the popularity list at DatingService.com is no longer recommended by the Christian Dating Service. Their position is that eHarmony began as a Christian site, but has become secular. Instead, their top recommendation goes to ChristianCafe.com. This religious-based dating service charges only $79.99 for six months, but does not offer any guarantees. Still, you can play your own numbers game following Match.com?s math – 30 contacts in six months equals one special person.

Christian, or not, just how safe is on-line dating? A lawsuit against Match.com by a woman who claimed a sexual assault resulted from meeting a man via the dating service has raised questions of responsibility. Match.com rose to the occasion.

Match.Com Logo

Recently, due to "more reliable" technology, Match.com says it will be screening members against public sex offender listings. Although data bases and search capabilities have, yes, become more sophisticated over the years, Match.com had the aforementioned motivation. Dating services claim to match you with the perfect mate according to questionnaire responses. That matching doesn?t mean the person you are paired with was honest or is harmless.

Don?t be taken in, especially by a desirable stranger. A savvy predator could use a false identity to get around a simple background check. Therefore, an apparently clean record doesn?t mean you can relax your guard. Relying on a website doing a background check for you can lead to a false sense of security.

Even trying to do your own research is tricky and time consuming. You?ll soon get a sense of what Match.com or any other dating service is up against. Searches on various words related to sexual crimes resulted in multiple registries across the US. One registry does not fit all.

The National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) claims to be the only government system that exists to link public state, territory, and even tribal sex offender registries from one national search site. Individuals can use this website?s search tool to identify the location of sex offenders residing, working, and attending school not only in their own neighborhoods but also in nearby communities and even other states.

In the US, the Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 (Lychner Act) required the Attorney General to establish a national database at the FBI to track the whereabouts and movements of certain convicted sex offenders. Unfortunately, the information isn?t available to private citizens such as you and me. Under the Act, the FBI may only release relevant information to federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies for law enforcement purposes. The site states: "Public notification will only be made if it is necessary to protect the public." Well, that?s usually too late to help a recent unsuspecting victim. Is this data available to dating service searches? Probably not.

CriminalCheck.com will search the National Sex Offender database by zip code for registered offenders. Sex offenders who move away from the state where they were convicted leaves local authorities and probably the dating service unaware. The offender will register their new address in the conviction state but many states don’t require out-of-state offenders to register locally.

If you take the responsibility off the dating service and attempt your own search of your neighborhood, you?ll be shocked. This writer found 38 sex offenders residing in her zip code area, and not all were male. Two men were living in the same apartment complex. One was listed as an offender in Alabama; the other committed the offense in Hawaii. Looking at the details, all were offenses against children under the age of 18. So where are those who commit crimes against adults?

The National Alert Registry aims their searches specifically at child molesters noting the chance that your child will become a victim of a sex offender is 1 in 3 for girls and 1 in 6 for boys. Possibly correct statistics, more likely scare tactics to motivate you to subscribe to their service at $4.95/month.

Those data bases aimed at child molesters don?t protect the dating female (or male for that matter) from a predator. Rapists, specifically, don?t seem to have their own registry. The other misconception is that strangers met on line are dangerous. The truth is that most sexual assaults of adults are committed by someone the victim knows. Think date rape. The best rule for staying safe is to be vigilant and cautious in all cases.

Match.com has a list of tips for protecting yourself. Whether or not they screen for sexual predators, it is wise advice:

  • Use your own transportation, meet in and stay in a public place.
  • Tell a friend where you will be and when; take your cell phone.
  • Stay sober and keep personal items under your control at all times.
  • If you plan to meet someone long distance, take a taxi, stay in a hotel, not in their home, keep your hotel location private; and always, tell friends when and where you are going. Give them the identity of the person you are meeting.
  • Each dating site has its own series of questions for processing your match. One site with the clich√© name Plenty of Fish looks at your self confidence, family orientation, self control, social dependency and openness, and how easy going you are. They also had questions about your hair color and Zodiac sign – dubiously important information to base a lasting relationship upon. But to each his own. Their site offered free matches; some would say you get what you pay for.

Is Love on Cards if you search for it online?Match.com offers a free trial, and paid subscriptions. You won?t get pricing until you create at least a mini profile which includes an email address, birth date, zip code which translates into a city, your sex, whether seeking a hetero or homosexual individual, (disguised as "seeking man or woman"), a user name and password.

This writer signed in, using phony information, as could anyone who wanted to hide their true identity. After viewing, and not selecting any of the subscription options, I backed out without signing up, as far as I could tell. However, I immediately received an email confirming my membership. It told me that Match.com was "responsible for more dates, relationships and marriages than any other site. Period." Well, that?s great, but considering this was only for research, I hope unsubscribing is not as difficult at Match.com as I have experienced in other situations. This could become an interesting experiment.