The Million Dollar Parking Spot

 

The New York Times recently reported that 10 New York City private parking spots will be come with a price tag of $1 million each.

This is shocking to us, even as New Yorkers who are used to paying an arm, a leg, and then another arm for pretty much everything. While the Huffington Post, among others, picked up on the fact that this sort of extravagance which caters to the ultra-wealthy highlights the huge gap between the rich and poor both here in New York and beyond, another issue came to mind for us: peace of mind.

Some parking spaces in NYC are selling for $1 million.

Some parking spaces in NYC are selling for $1 million. Photo credit: Jeffrey Zeldman

Let us explain. For those not familiar with parking in NYC, it’s a pretty terrible experience. Searching for street parking has been known to lead to insanity among drivers and even for the lucky ones able to snag a spot, you’re leaving your car open to all the travails of a rough, unpredictable, urban environment. Scratches, broken side-view mirrors, thefts and of course, parking tickets, are all too common.

Parking garages offer some shelter but still leave you at the mercy of hurried attendants who will pack your car vertically three or four rows high. And did we mention the fees?

The rare parking spots that come with apartments here are routinely rented out by their owners to help subsidize substantial portions of the actual rent. The whole situation is enough to make you crazy. Perhaps this is why even ex-Mayor Bloomberg would ride the Subway for his commute some days.

So someone selling a million dollar parking spot is selling a lot more than the extra space and convenience. They are selling peace of mind. Peace of mind that the car will be protected, always accessible and always vacant for its owner.

At BeenVerified, we think everyone should have access to peace of mind and not just the extremely rich. That’s been a large part of our mission since day one. We build and organize data assets that used to be part of a closed system, available only to a privileged few, and make that information accessible to everyone. Our pricing structure makes multiple searches affordable so you never have to question if it’s worth the money to run a background check, for whichever purpose you need it for.

Whether you’re seeking information on a pesky phone number, an owner of an address or a new person in your life, you can use our background check for your own peace of mind.

And we definitely suggest you take the train when you come to New York.

What’s the most you’ve ever paid for peace of mind? Let us know in the comments.

6 Things to Like About the iPhone 6 Announcement

 

As developers of an iPhone app we watched Apple’s launch event yesterday with anticipation. We found at least six things to like or at least find interesting, and none of them have to do with Bono.

New iPhone models.

New iPhone models.Photo credit: Miguel Angel Aranda

  1. Many of the cool new features have to do with the announcement of Apple Pay. Using a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) your iPhone can double as a digital wallet featuring one touch checkout. Unlike other versions, this one has the backing of all major card providers so it has a chance of seeing mainstream adoption.
  1. Apple Pay also encrypts your card data so merchants won’t have access to your card information anymore. Apple says even if a store you shop at gets hacked you won’t need to cancel the card used from its wallet.
  1. The iPhone 6 plus display is their best yet, at 1080p HD.
  1. Ditto the camera, with new features including an advanced pixel sensor and lens, and a new feature called “burst selfie” mode.
  1. Improved battery life. Especially important for all that late night Tinder activity.
  1. Not too expensive. The cost is in line with traditional iPhone pricing.

Will you be upgrading to an iPhone 6? Let us know which of the features most excite you in the comments.

Who is Your Teen Discovering on Tinder?

 

Last week we shared our thoughts about the potential pitfalls of Tinder, the app that has taken taking the online dating world by storm over the past couple of years. One aspect we didn’t discuss was Tinder’s fast growing population of underage users.

Who is your teen swiping right with?

Who is your teen swiping right with?  Photo credit: Shinichi Higashi

Tinder’s founder, Justin Mateen, disclosed this stat himself earlier this year: over 7% of Tinder’s users are aged 13-17.

As we mentioned in our previous post, one of the game-changing features of Tinder and similar online dating apps is the mandatory use of GPS location services that come built-in with smartphones to connect users in a similar geographic area. With Tinder, that service can put matches within a mile of one another.

While many parenting blogs have since blown the whistle on the inappropriateness of underage kids using Tinder, some calling it “the worst app ever for teens,” Tinder’s founder has since provided some clarity on his original statement suggesting the safeguards that both Tinder and Facebook, which the app uses to authenticate its users, prevents adults and underage users from interacting, as well as unwanted contact between users.

As many sources have noted however, it is extremely easy to create either a fake or secondary Facebook account. In fact, many Tinder users create secondary Facebook accounts entirely for the purpose of trawling Tinder, or to maintain their own privacy and safety.

While the prospect of your 13 year-old using Tinder may terrify you, keep in mind many, if not most Tinder users treat the app as a game rather than a serious dating or hook up site. Tinder itself calls the app a “social discovery” tool. While many of the parenting blogs that raised the red flag on underage Tinder use suggested blocking the app from their teen’s phone, which in many cases may be justified, it won’t prevent them from using the next app that could compromise their safety.

Instead, consider employing these tactics to keep your kids aware of risks:

1. Teach your kids about the importance of their privacy and the internet. They should know which of their phone’s apps use location services like GPS and how to effectively manage privacy settings on social media platforms. If you don’t know these things, then it’s time for you to get educated, too.

2. Learn about the new people in your kids’ lives. It’s not an immediate red flag for your teenager to have a friend over the age of 18, but if you get a funny feeling, consider running a background check and talking it over with your teen.

3. Keep the lines of communication open. The worst thing that can happen is alienating your child and losing the ability to easily keep tabs on their activities, online and off.

Tinder: When in Doubt, Swipe Left (Or Hit Block)

 

Tinder has changed the face of online dating. The process used to consist of hours crafting a detailed profile complete with one’s favorite foods and movies to tap into a network of complex algorithms in order to test for compatibility in connecting with a potential date. This was often followed by days or weeks of correspondence to determine if the date appeared worthwhile to meet for a preliminary coffee date.

Everyone is on Tinder these days.

Everyone is on Tinder these days. Photo credit: Tinder Hell.

Tinder, and similar sites such as Grindr, with their direct interfaces, emphasis over pictures rather than written profiles, seem to encourage users to do away with the complex “getting to know you” rituals of more traditional online dating. GPS compatibility adds to the urge of “meeting up now” rather than conducting due diligence over time on a potential match.

The fact that everyone seems to be using Tinder adds to the pressure to participate. While the majority of Tinder users seem to treat the app as more of a game or diversion as opposed to a dating or hook up site, the fact that “everyone” is on Tinder means that unsavory predators are on it, too. And without you being careful, they can find out your location, your appearance and perhaps even work their way onto your Facebook account.

The fact that Tinder relies on Facebook’s infrastructure to ensure “real people” are being matched with one another gives the dating platform a veneer of safety that could lead to complacency. The fact is that Tinder’s directness makes it a particularly attractive venue for scam artists, which as we’ve blogged about recently, have proliferated throughout the online dating universe.

Be sure to avoid seeing friends from work by checking the appropriate settings. Photo credit: Tinder Hell.

Be sure to avoid seeing friends from work by checking the appropriate settings. Photo credit: Tinder Hell.

Here are a few aspects of Tinder that you should consider “Swiping Left” on:

1. Catfish – Fake Facebook accounts can and are easily created for the purpose of Tinder, as this story reports. When engaging with a match, ask a lot of question and be ready to hit the block button if the answers don’t add up.

2. Facebook Friends – Make sure in Tinder’s settings you instruct it to avoid showing you Facebook friends in real life. It’s also a good idea to tighten up all of your Facebook security settings while you’re at it.

3. Con artists – Sex workers, automated bots and con artists looking to exploit Tinder’s location services have all been known to use the service for unsavory and illegal purposes. Again, use the block button if someone seems too good to be true and especially if they are intrusive.

And here are some ideas to “Swipe Right” on to ensure Tinder remains fun, useful and safe:

1. Background check – Keeping a background check app like BeenVerified next to your phone’s Tinder icon can make it extremely convenient to rule out some of the seamy characters listed above.

2. Make your first date in public – Use the same common sense approach you would for traditional or typical online dating. Meet in public, converse online until you’re comfortable and don’t feel rushed to make a connection.

3. Use the block feature – We can’t emphasize this one enough. As so many Tinder users treat the service like a game, it’s a reality that you will run into people with no investment in the service and are simply looking to joke around or even harass people. Use that block button early and often!

We hope the above tips will help you navigate the world of Tinder and similar match sites with ease.

Do you use Tinder? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section.

Don’t Let Your Naked “Selfies” Reach These 3 People

 

There is nothing like a naked celebrity to concentrate  attention on an issue like data theft. This week a major scandal erupted over the hacking of major celebrities iCloud accounts. As a company focused on building trust online, stories like this obviously catch our attention.

You can take some basic steps to minimize the risk of sensitive photos appearing online. Photo credit: jdeeringdavis under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/hayesandjenn/

You can take some basic steps to minimize the risk of sensitive photos appearing online. Photo credit: jdeeringdavis under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/hayesandjenn

If something like this can happen to celebrities who constantly monitor and guard their public images, it likely can happen to you, too. The alleged hacker in this case notably thanked the “many people” who helped contribute to stealing the images. While the safety of storing such sensitive material on the cloud can and will be debated, we thought looking at who you should not trust with such images is a great way to minimize your own risk.

Here are three types of people you should avoid sending naked photos of yourself if you want to ensure those images stay offline:

  1. Dates

Some people like to show off their uninhibited side early on in the dating process with suggestive photos to whet their mate’s appetites. This tends to always be a bad idea. Dating is an extremely ephemeral pursuit and the odds of you having a meaningful relationship with any one date are quite low. However that picture image can live on forever. Platforms like Snapchat have emboldened this type of behavior with the idea that the photos will quickly disappear, but as this article points out, there are many hacks available to retrieve images if someone is so inclined.

  1. Significant Others / Spouses

While many people would never send a sensitive image to a date, a significant other or spouse brings is generally agreed to be a different ballgame. While there is an implied amount of trust involved in such serious relationships, one shouldn’t forget that sadly, many of these relationships -including marriages- will fail at some point. Unfortunately, many will even turn into nasty divorce and custody proceedings. Don’t let that romantic picture turn into a headache, or worse yet, a source of blackmail, later on.

  1. Yourself

You may think your naked selfie is safe on your own device, but you would be wrong. Ignoring the fact that hackers can use increasingly sophisticated means to virtually break into your device or cloud storage account (as in the recent celebrity case), there are more basic reasons to be concerned. Consider that 3.1 million mobile devices are stolen in the US each year and data shows that an American loses a phone every 3.5 seconds.

The next time you have an urge to take or send a naked picture of yourself or mate, ask yourself if you’ve thought through all of the consequences and can feel certain that you won’t regret it later.

Which Online Dating Lies Will You Accept?

 

shhh

Which lies are OK?

Last week we focused on harmful lies and deceit associated with online dating scams and the financial distress they can cause the vulnerable. But what about the softer side of deception, when potential dates fudge some vitals or use an outdated photo? Which lies are acceptable and which go too far?

People lie in online dating in myriad ways.  Online dating profiles are, in many ways, mini-advertisements, and people try to sell you the very best versions of themselves in a short profile.  In addition, because many online dating sites have cut-off points that categorize people, some people might fudge their numbers to get into categories where they think they might be more compatible with group members.

For example, someone might alter their income because they are entry level in their field and expect to make more in a short period of time.  A guy might say that he is taller than he actually is because he knows that women may state a preference for taller men, and that few women would refuse to date a man she met in person because he was an inch or two shorter.  These lies are what many people would consider harmless puffery, but for some people could be deal breakers.

Now for the big one: pictures.  It seems natural to select your most attractive photo for your online dating profile.  However, it is important to ask yourself if you still look like the person in the photo.  If the photo is a few years old or if you have undergone a dramatic physical change in the interim, then using that photo is probably dishonest.  Why try to date someone who would only find a historical version of you attractive?  On the other hand, that someone’s photo is a few years old is probably not a reason to consider that person dishonest about appearance.

Another point to consider: sometimes people lie accidentally.  A new female applicant might not be able to figure out what half of the body type categories on eHarmony even mean. Some of the men viewing that profile could have honest disagreements about if the person meets those requirements. And what about those situations where friends help one another with wording and descriptions on their profiles to bring out their best characteristics? Is this honest, friendly input or a form of cheating?

There are, however, some lies that cannot be considered harmless.  A married person claiming to be single, a mother or father claiming to be childless, or a person using fake pictures or fake names in their profiles are all red flags for bad behavior.  Running a background check through a service like BeenVerified probably will not tell you if your online love is really 5’11” instead of 6” tall, but it can reveal important information like marital status, criminal history, and whether or not the person has any children.

In online dating, we all conceal things about ourselves. That does not mean that all lies are harmless or that all lies are the same. Which online dating lies have you accepted after a date? Let us know in the comments.

Four Ways to Protect Mom and Dad From Scammers

 

We have looked at at the explosive growth of online dating scams this week, but there is another group of people that con men have a long history of preying upon, as this recent story noting the rise of “The Grandparents Scam” illustrates.

Look after him with these tips. Photo credit: Dietmar Temps under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepblue66/

Look after him with these tips. Photo credit: Dietmar Temps under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepblue66/

The reality is that a certain group of con artists focus their efforts on the elderly.  The elderly can make excellent marks for many reasons.  First, many elderly people have significant financial resources and do not have the same obligations that younger people may have, such as a mortgage, car payment, college savings, or saving for retirement.  This gives many of the elderly access to cash.

Second, the elderly can often be lonely and desire attention and affection.  As spouses and friends begin to die, the daily contacts that elderly people have established over a lifetime begin to slip away.  Children, grandchildren, and other relatives may try to fill those voids but be unable to do so because of other commitments in their own work, and families of their own.  This can leave the elderly looking for companionship.

Third, while impaired judgment is not an inevitable part of aging, it is a common occurrence as people age.  The combination of loneliness, confusion, and access to cash makes elderly people perfect targets for predators.

What can you do to help make sure that con artists are not preying upon your elderly relatives?

1. Make time for your relatives.

Even if you cannot be there, physically, make sure and maintain your relationship with regular phone calls.  Ask about what is happening in their lives and take an interest in any new connections that they make.

2. Encourage your relatives to do what they can to establish and maintain current connections.

If that is no longer possible in their physical location, a move closer to family or to a senior community where they will have ready access to social groups might merit further investigation.

3. Be honest in your assessment of an elderly relative’s judgment capabilities.

No one wants to deprive an elderly relative of the freedom of being in charge of their own finances or other decisions, but it is far worse to ignore developing problems for too long and find out that dementia has led to an elderly relative making disastrous personal choices that leave them dependent upon others for financial care.

4. Be proactive.

If you have any suspicions about a new person in your elderly relative’s life, you can run a background check through a service like BeenVerified. While not all con artists will have a red flag in their background check such as a criminal record for fraud, a background check does more than let you know about a criminal record. It can also tell you if the person has been honest with the information he or she has shared with your relatives.

Any significant lies are red flags that may merit further investigation or intervention by you.

 

10 Reasons You Might Enjoy Working at BeenVerified

 

BeenVerified is hiring. Check out our open positions here.

Here are ten reasons to consider joining our team:

A look at our office.

A look at our office.

  1. We are working with and improving upon some of the most complex data assets in the world.
  2. We have a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere where everyone is part of the family.
  3. Our kitchen is full of fresh fruits and vegetables that we use to make homemade juices (last week it was Berries & Carrot).
  4. Our NYC office is super-convenient to just about every major subway line.
  5. We have weekly meditation sessions.
  6. You can work from home when you don’t want to go out in the rain.
  7. You’ll be in an environment designed for optimum developer happiness and can build your own set-up
  8. We have a casual dress code.
  9. We have great health benefits for full-time employees.
  10. You’ll be part of a team that is disrupting the stodgy old world of public records and making it easy for consumers to find the important information they need.

We had to cut out the eleventh reason because it’s so cool, we don’t want competitors to steal the idea. Send us a message if you want to know what it is.

Check out our jobs page for more information on what it’s like to work at BeenVerified or read our interview with Product Manager, Tony Aly, for more insights on life at BeenVerified.

You See Love, They See Gold: Yet Another Online Dating Scam

 

gold bars

Think carefully before sending money to someone new in your life, no matter how convincing the story sounds. Photo Credit: John Louis, used under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/investingingold/

Yesterday we looked at the growing phenomenon of online dating scams that are cheating unsuspecting and vulnerable people out of millions of dollars across the globe. While we noted that online dating’s move to the mainstream is likely the main cause in the growing number of scams out there, another long-term trend is also partly responsible: Globalization.

Anyone reading the news today can become discouraged with the number of crises and conflicts in the world. Today’s news of conflicts, while terrible in their own right, can also provide scammers with fodder for their next ploy.

The BBC reported on the latest example of such a scam yesterday.  A woman from England was duped by a man she met through an online dating service into what she thought was assisting his “Syrian sheikh” buddy import valuables legally into the country. The elaborate scam involved the woman paying thousands in fake tax bills and custom fees. After the woman realized she had been scammed, it was too late. While the police were able to trace the money back to a location elsewhere in England, the culprit and money were long since gone.

As the victim in the story remarked, vulnerable people are especially susceptible to this type of scam, particularly when dealing with skillful con artists who can rip news from the headlines to help support and validate their schemes.

While this particular story may seem far-fetched, we would argue that this type of scam could potentially befall anyone, not just the especially vulnerable or naïve. When you make a connection with a potential mate, online and off, judgment can become clouded, particularly in matters of money. That’s why we encourage verifying the legitimacy of a potential date early on, before you feel emotional attachment.

BeenVerified makes it easy to take the first step in building trust online with a potential partner with our extensive, affordable and accessible background check service.

What is the sketchiest thing a date or partner has asked you to do for them early on in the dating process? Let us know in the comments, but keep it PG-13, please!

Your Next Date: A Con Artist?

 

love:money

Make sure your online date wants you–and not your money. Photo credit: Just Deon, under Creative Commons license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/reign4aday/

As online dating has gone from niche to mainstream, scams targeting online daters are exploding, with more and more people using the Internet to prey upon the unsuspecting to make them fall in love and then steal their money.

British newspaper The Guardian recently called dating scams “the most costly in existence” and reported that in Australia there have already been 43 people this year who have lost more than $100,000 each in related scams.

Con artists spend time and effort to perfect their scams, which can make it difficult for the average person to determine whether a new online romantic interest is the real thing or simply a scam.

Here are some simple steps that you can take to protect yourself from a fraud.

Step 1: Scrutinize their profile. 

Keeping in mind that many people manage their profiles in such a way as to only present the best about themselves to potential dates, look at what you can see about them and honestly assess whether it looks too good to be true.  Conversely, profiles with minimal or vague information should also serve as a red flag. Is the text the work of a unique and down-to-earth individual, or are the phrases cookie cutter? Does the person seem to be in a rush to find a partner?

Step 2: Check out their pictures. 

First, are there pictures? In this day and age, it is safe to assume that someone who isn’t willing to share pictures and is trying to do online dating is likely hiding something.  Second, are the pictures all of the same person?  One thing that con artists do is make profiles from pictures that they have found that seem similar, but upon closer inspection, are actually of different people! Third, where else can you find the pictures?  Google has a feature that allows you to search for other locations of pictures online. Is that person’s picture an image used in multiple, seemingly unrelated websites? Or can you trace the picture back to a legitimate social media profile?

Step 3: Consider a background check. 

Is there a person matching that description?  Using a company like BeenVerified for a background check, you can find out if there is a person with that name and that age living where the person claims to live.  While it is possible for an adult to have no public record footprint, it is rare, and the lack of a verifiable identity is a huge warning sign that you may be on the verge of being scammed, or at least have caught a catfish.

The most important point of all: never send money to someone you haven’t yet met in person. Most online dating scams rely on building an emotional connection with the victim and getting money sent through services like PayPal or through other means online

Have you had any experience with online dating sketchiness? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments.