Are you dating a criminal? How to check your online date's background before you go out

Four Ways To Investigate Your Valentine That You Met Online
Four Ways To Investigate Your Valentine That You Met Online

Valentine's Day isn't all hearts and flowers, especially if you're using social media to find your dream date.

Maria Coder, author of "InvestiDate: How to Investigate Your Date," has some tips for dating online, and for protecting yourself in a virtual world where anyone can claim to be anything with little or no verification.

"He/she could be the nicest person in the world," Coder told INSIDE EDITION. "Or he/she could be a complete criminal."

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She spent seven years writing her book, while working as a journalist. It started with her own foray into online dating when she realized, "I don't really know anything about this person I'm about to meet."

"It made me think there must be something I can to do to make myself feel safer," she said. "People put their best foot forward. No one says, 'Hey, I'm a murderer, let me buy you a beer.'"

To help guide you through the curious maze of online cupid services, Coder has amassed a list of social media red flags for IE:

Red Flag 1: He's too eager to move your conversation offline.

"These are racecar lovers. Dating is about getting to know someone. Sure, you don't want to be on the dating site forever but you shouldn't feel like you're being rushed," she warns. Establishing a separate email and text account is advisable, she says. Make sure the accounts carry no personal identification such as your name.

Red Flag 2: If she doesn't have a photo, move on.

"There's no reason for that. Just about everyone has a camera on their phone – at minimum. If you're worried you're being catfished by someone that's not your gender preference, try copy and pasting some of the text into Gender Guesser."

Red Flag 3: If the photo seems too good to be true or looks familiar, you may be right.

You can right click to download the image to your computer, then pop it into Google's Reverse Image Search to see where it pops up.

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Red Flag 4: He says things that don't add up.

"If your date seems to know a lot about, say, Vermont for a New Yorker that refuses to step outside of Manhattan, he could be hiding something in his past. Is he married? Sites like" look at address histories. "It's also not a bad idea to check if he's a sex offender, you can do that for free on"

Red Flag 5: He has a great opportunity but he can't tell very many people about it.

"There are a lot of savvy financial types and several are great but that doesn't mean you should take financial advice from someone you just met."

Red Flag 6: He's in the military and won't be back for a few months.

"Huge red flag! These types of scenarios come up a lot and most of the time it's just not true, particularly if you're asked to wire money overseas for return papers, airfare and other incidentals."