Dirty John

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted! There just hasn’t been a lot of interesting activity to post about…until now. I’m very excited to post my feedback on a new podcast called Dirty John. The podcast, available through iTunes, outlines the real life story of Debra Newell’s encounter with a predator named John Meehan. The seven-part series covers her life with Meehan from start to finish. It’s one of the most interesting cases of romantic deception I’ve read about in a long time. The story is also available on Bravo. I haven’t watched the series, but I’m sure it’s every bit as good as the podcast. Or check out the Twitter feed about the story here.

With deepest sadness

It is with deep sadness that I must report that Dr. Sally Caldwell passed away on Friday, January 31, 2014. Dr. Caldwell and I connected in 2008 after my own bout with romantic deception. Through our love for investigation and uncovering the truth, a friendship was born and the second edition of Romantic Deception The Six Signs He’s Lying was written and published. Sally was a valued colleague and dear friend and she will be greatly missed.

Darlene E. Adams

Teenagers can also be victims of romantic deception

Over the last couple months I’ve been asked to investigate three cases involving teenagers or young adults. In one case, the parents were concerned about a boy their daughter was dating. They wanted to be sure he was all that he claimed to be. My investigation indicated that he may have slightly embellished his education, but on all other accounts he had been honest.

This past weekend I was contacted by another parent who was concerned about a girl her son had met on the Internet. The relationship had been going on for well over three years despite the fact that the two had never met in person. The girl was slated to visit three years ago and had cancelled. The boy, quite smitten by her, purchased a ring and had his mother post it for him.

Fast forward three years, and the girl is again due to visit. The mother, concerned, provided what information she knew about the girl. It wasn’t much, but a couple of red flags immediately went up. The young lady claimed to be a “Victoria Secret model” and the ring was mailed to a PO box, not a street address. She emailed me an image of a stunning young woman she believed to be the girl.

I ran the image through a reverse image search and quickly identified it as one easily available on the Internet. Of course the image name, Hotties (12).jpg, was highly suspicious and should have been an immediate indicator that it likely was not the girl corresponding with her son.

As an investigator, I’m trained to look for things that don’t add up. The PO box was suspicious, but the fact that the boy was not connected to the girl on Facebook was even more telling. Although I know they exist, I don’t personally know any 17-20 year olds who aren’t on Facebook. I could see that the boy had not “friended” the girl. Teenagers live out their lives on Facebook and the boy was no exception. How was it possible that he was not connected to the girl? What Victoria Secret model doesn’t plaster their image all over the Internet? Models make their living by being highly connected – and highly visible.

Once I got started with the investigation, it didn’t take me long to find the girl. She did indeed have a PO box in the town that she claimed to live in. She also had a Facebook profile, and a Facebook photo. I can tell you that she would never qualify as a Victoria Secret model on a variety of fronts.

The boy, once confronted with the truth, decided that he didn’t care what the girl looked like. That was admirable, however, I hope that he will soon realize that a relationship built on deceit is likely not going to work.

Earlier this year I worked on another case involving the son of two American actors. This story was similar. The boy had fallen for a girl he met over the Internet. This girl claimed to come from a wealthy family who lived in Poland. Their relationship progressed as much as any relationship could over the Internet until the day she declared that she had been beaten by thugs and was fighting for her life in the hospital.

By the time the parents contacted me, the boy was an emotional mess, sick with worry over someone he cared deeply about. The parents tried their best to intercede and contact the girl’s family. The only problem, they were not sure exactly who the girl was. All they had to go on was scant information provided by the girl herself.

The web of deceit she created was elaborate. She had set up several fake Facebook profiles for herself, two brothers, and for her father. Her Facebook profile, set to private, was immediately suspicious. Her profile photo showed a girl and boy, but neither faced the camera. None of her “friends” were visible. Ditto for the brother’s Facebook profile. The father’s profile, also set to private, had a grainy photo of a man about the appropriate age, but no more identifying information.

The other brother did have an image on his Facebook page that looked like it had been taken by a professional photographer. I ran that image through a reverse image search and it immediately identified the young man – not as her brother from Poland – but as a relatively well-known band member in England. The name certainly didn’t match the name of the individual on the profile she (as we now know) set up herself.

Her tangled web of deceit was littered with flaws. One of the first indicators that the girl might be a fraud was when I Googled the Polish surname. It didn’t exist! Finally she made a call to the young man from her cell phone…a number preceded by a country code. The parents, and the boy, were thrown off by the unusual looking number that appeared on the caller id. It didn’t take me more than a minute to figure out that the call came from a cell phone registered in England, not Poland.

Once confronted with the information I found, the girl broke down and admitted her deceit. Oddly, the girl’s parents were both police officers in England who dealt with Internet fraud.

For a great documentary on the pitfalls of cyber romance, check out Catfish. It’s a fascinating true-life tale of how a young man gets caught up in a twisted online love affair. You’ll never believe the ending…or maybe you will!

Divorce files are a good source for information

Did you know that files created during a divorce proceeding are public information? That’s right, all the dirty secrets couples hurl at one another when they go through a divorce can be viewed by anyone.

If you know the man you are dating has gone through a divorce and you’d like to do some checking, first find out where the divorce took place. Most divorces are handled at the county level so you’ll need to know not only what state the divorce happened in, but the county as well. The files from the case are kept at the probate court (in most cases) and all you need to do is walk in with a name (the more information you have, the better, like the date of the divorce and wife’s name) and request the file. It’s yours to view and copy if you’d like.

There may be some restrictions on viewing, for example, I was not allowed to open certain envelopes in the file that contained financial information, but there was plenty of dirt to be had even without those documents.

Remarkably, social security numbers are often present in the documents. It’s not a bad idea to copy down your man’s social security number. If you want to do a more thorough check on the guy, and you’re willing to spend a little money, a private investigator can run several reports using the social security number. Their reports provide a history of addresses, assets owned by the individual including homes, cars and boats, names of relatives, and individuals living nearby. You may also receive a criminal history if it exists.

I viewed a divorce file after I’d broken up with the man, because I was curious. For three years I had heard his side of the story and he made his ex sound like a crazy woman. But after reviewing the file, I can tell you that they both were odd and each contributed to the demise of the relationship in equal fashion.

Most recently I have been researching an aunt (long ago deceased) who led a very secretive life with huge gaps missing when her family knew nothing of her whereabouts. One of the primary sources of information was her divorce file. I did not know exactly where to look for it, but through some leads, I finally found it in Ely, Nevada.

The file, dated 1948, was over 200 pages. It answered many questions her family had about her life in the 40s. The most interesting part of her divorce file was the exhibits. Her husband accused her of being an unfit mother because she had affairs. To prove that, he submitted dozens of love letters she received (through an accomplice who testified for the husband) from a man in another state. It was incredible to read these letters, written over 60 years ago, and to learn this new information. Without the divorce file, we never would have known what really happened.

GPS data in photos can help uncover romantic deception

We all know that lying on the Internet is prevalent. Anyone who’s tried on-line dating knows that people aren’t always who, and what, they claim to be. I’ve heard lots of stories – and experienced a few examples myself – of individuals who are much older, much heavier, and much less educated than their profiles portray.

When that deception pours over into everyday living inside a romantic relationship, then it’s a real issue. There is a fine line between embellishing on a profile to make oneself more attractive, and out right lying about every aspect of one’s life. As Dr. Caldwell, author of Romantic Deception: The Six Signs He’s Lying defines it, it is the “unrestrained misrepresentation of significant facts in the context of a intimate relationship.” In other words, someone who truly is an impostor.

Everyday I look for new ways to help victims uncover the truth about the romantic liars in their lives. Did you know that you can now determine exactly where a photograph was taken? There is a new technology built into all GPS enabled cameras and Smartphones that will give you the exact location, within 15 feet, of where the photo was snapped.

This technology can be very useful in determining whether your romantic partner is telling the truth – or not. To learn more, watch the video here.



Proceed with caution when hiring a private investigator

Much of what I needed to know about my ex I was able to dig up on my own through online databases, but there was one nagging piece that I needed an answer to. My ex told me he had never been married. The evidence supported that. I met many of his friends and his entire family. No one indicated that he’d been married before. We had planned to live together and he had brought several of his possessions to my home. But when he moved these items out the day the relationship ended, he left behind several pieces that raised suspicion.

These items were household goods, new, and still in the original boxes. He told me that he’d received one or more of the items as awards from golf tournaments. But these were household goods, not typical golf incentives: a cappuccino machine, hand mixer, juicer, dishes, glassware, about ten items in total. They looked a lot like wedding or shower gifts. I wondered if he had lied about his marital history. I had caught him in many lies about his financial situation so I wondered if this was just one more area he’d been untruthful about.

So I asked a local PI to conduct a background check just to be sure. Weeks passed and my curiosity grew. One day I received an email from the PI asking me to call him regarding the investigation. Our conversation was shrouded in mystery. He told me he could not tell me everything he had found out, or how he had found the information, but he declared – in no uncertain terms – that my ex was currently married! I can’t tell you what a shock that was to hear. We had ended the relationship just two months prior so I knew that the marriage was not a recent one. My mind raced with how he could possibly have hid a current marriage. I asked the PI for details but he refused to tell me more.

My mind reeled and my heart sank at the thought of this level of deception. I thought perhaps there had been a previous, brief marriage, but never did I imagine a current marriage. It took me about 24 hours to gain my composure and to put into action my own search for the truth. I emailed an associate of the PI who was involved in the initial search. I was able to pry a “possible” first name and age of the “wife” from the associate who relayed what he could remember. My next stop was the Registry of Vital Records where I met a sweet and helpful employee who performed a search of the marriage records for me. No marriage record turned up for the ex.

I spent innumerable hours online searching the name I was given. Nothing turned up that linked the guy to a potential wife. It took some time, and much angst, but I finally began to realize that the person the PI so adamantly claimed was his wife, was in fact his sister. This fact was later confirmed through another PI who, upon hearing my story, offered to conduct a database search for me.

The moral of this post is: Take every nugget you receive with a grain of salt. Not all information you, or a private investigator, pulls from a database is reliable. The PI who performed the initial search could have saved me much pain simply by qualifying his investigative results. Apparently he found a woman’s name linked to the address the ex currently resided at (his parents’ home). The woman’s age was around his age. The PI made a huge leap by assuming that it was a wife and not another relative.

Databases are subject to human error upon inputting data. Reports available on the Web from sources like peoplefinders.com and intellius.com, among others, offer very basic information and cost money to view. Much of the information they provide is available for free if you know where to look for it. The information on these reports is also not always current and in many cases inaccurate or unavailable. It cannot be relied upon. Beware that what they offer may not be available in your state. For example, usa-people-search.com offers a “Comprehensive Background Check” for $39.95 that includes marriage and divorce records. What you don’t see is that in Massachusetts, marriage records are not available online, so you will not receive any marital information on someone you check in the state of Massachusetts (and numerous other states).

I also have been told that intellius.com offers to provide a telephone number for $2.95. What they don’t tell you is that the number may not be for the individual you are seeking. It could be any individual by the same name in that state. They also have a no refund policy. Buyer beware.

Bottom line: Hire a reputable private investigator (see links to recommended investigators in my blogroll). Investigate the investigator. Make sure he or she has credentials and is licensed if licensing is required in your state. Check references as well. Ask to see certified copies of marriage licenses before believing that the individual you are checking is truly married. Take information obtained from databases with a bit of skepticism.


MyLife.com deemed a scam

If you’ve been searching for information on someone via the Internet, you’ve no doubt run into many, many listings for MyLife.com that appear to have information about the person you are looking for. I’ve seen it over and over again in my searches and today I decided to check it out. I was ready to sign up, using fake information just as a test, and soon realized that my “free” account wouldn’t go through without accepting their terms. I decided to read on.

The terms spell out that there will be credit card charges. That was a red flag so I quickly cancelled out and did a Google search for “MyLife scam.” There were lots of hits. Apparently MyLife is the new version of Classmates.com, a site I know all too well.

Last year while planning a high school reunion, I signed up for Classmates.com’s Gold Membership. That was a mistake. My next credit card statement included fraudulent charges for a credit monitoring service that I’d never heard of. Nor had I ever received any information or confirmation that I’d been enrolled.

I immediately contacted Classmates.com and was told that I had indeed selected the service. Knowing that I had not, I promptly contacted my credit card company and had the charge removed. Apparently MyLife.com is operating the same scam and should be avoided.

There are two services for finding information about people that I can recommend. I have used both Spokeo.com and Emailfinder.com without any issues. Both are useful tools. They do not always return the information I’d like or need, and the addresses are sometimes not current, but like I said, they are a tools in my arsenal that do help from time to time.

To learn more about the MyLife.com scam, click here.

Some great dating tips for women over 40 on Alwaysnewyou.com

It’s no surprise that three out of eleven tips for safe dating over the age of 40 recommend checking your date out. There are lots of ways to gather information about someone through free sources on the Internet and through public records (to learn how, check out the Survival Guide in Romantic Deception: The Six Signs He’s Lying). If you are serious about the guy, and are considering living together or marriage, it pays to be safe. If in doubt about your own investigative skills, hire a private investigator to do the background research. The peace of mind is worth it. Read more here

Ready to hire a private investigator? More comfortable working with a woman? Check out a group called Female Legal and Investigative Professionals (F.L.I.P.).