3 Big Stories You Should Be Following


Here are a few big news stories we noticed from the past few days that are likely to stay in the headlines throughout the week:

  1. Celebrity photo scandal continues 

    Kim Kardashian. Phot credit: Eva Rinaldi
    Kim Kardashian. Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi 

The celebrity photo scandal involving the renegade site 4chan

continued to take twists and turns this weekend as more nude photos from Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Hudgens and Hope Solo emerged across the internet. Like the previous series of leaked photos it’s alleged the hackers breached the celebrities iCloud accounts through guessing passwords and back-up security questions.

Our advice: Now is a great time to revisit your security settings on any cloud storage devices such as iCloud, Dopbox or Amazon Cloud. While making sure you set strong passwords, we question whether it ever makes sense to hold extremely sensitive photos of yourself in the cloud or on your devices.

Further reading: Don’t Let Your Naked Selfies Reach These 3 People

  1. Apple introduces default encryption  

Coincidentally or not, after the celebrity iCloud scandal,                   Apple has been rolling out a number of new security features over the past couple of weeks. Apple has now introduced default encryption for iOS8, which means even the company itself will not be able to access data on your devices. Interestingly, Apple went a step further in its announcement, noting that “unlike competitors,” it will not try to monetize its users data. Many in the media interpret this as a swipe at Google, which also announced it will encrypt data by default.

The lines outside Apple stores were long everywhere this weekend.
The lines outside Apple stores were long everywhere this weekend. Photo credit: Joe Nicholl

Further reading: Is Google Hiding Something From You?

  1.  iPhone 6 sales break records

Apple continues to dominate headlines with the announcement that it sold over 10 million of its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus since Friday. What’s even more impressive, as this Forbes article points out, is that the new phone models are not yet on sale in the world’s largest smartphone market, China, until early 2015.

Further reading: 6 Things to Like About the iPhone 6 Announcement

What news stories did you find interesting this week? Let us know in the comments.

3 Situations When a Criminal Record Matters


Earlier this week we looked at when and why it matters if someone has a criminal record. We noted that this question would likely be answered differently by different people and in different contexts. A criminal record involving someone close to you is more pressing than knowing the down the street neighbor whom you’ve never actually met has one.

A background check can illuminate the situation.
A background check can illuminate the situation. Photo credit: Olga Reznik 

Here are three situations when knowing that someone has a criminal record might actually matter and how your awareness of the situation can improve your choices:

  1. A New Date

Getting things off on the right foot is important in a new relationship and it’s also important to know if a potential romantic partner is hiding anything crucial from you. If you get a funny feeling about an otherwise promising new romantic interest in your life, then consider running a background check to get peace of mind.

If you find past criminal activity of importance then at the very least, you know having a prompt conversation about past mistakes is important. At worst, you may find that that this person intends on hiding something important about him or herself from you.

  1. Anyone interacting with your children

You can’t watch your kids 100% of the time and there will be always be other adults in their lives, whether through a carpool to school, the parents of their friends, or even older friends that they meet through various activities.

If something doesn’t feel right to you, running a background check should be a no-brainer. We have had previous customers use our service to uncover criminal records and remove their children from potentially dangerous situations. The threats out there are real, and a background check can be an affordable and accessible first line of protection for your family. What you do with the knowledge is up to you.

  1. A neighbor or acquaintance 

While it’s impossible to check on the history of everyone you interact with, you should feel comfortable around people like next-door neighbors and anyone else in your close proximity. If a neighbor has a history of gun violations, for example, then maybe it’s a good idea to avoid having your children play near his yard.

The power of a background check is simply the power of information.

We hope you don’t find out anything questionable about your neighbor or new love interest, but having the power of that knowledge will certainly improve your chances of making more informed decisions, a key mission of ours when we started BeenVerified.


When Does it Matter if Someone Has a Criminal Record?


At BeenVerified, we make it easy for our customers to run detailed background checks which can provide a plethora of information from address history, social media profiles, known aliases and associates, among other useful facts about the person being searched. Taken together, this information can provide a richer picture of a little-known person and draw a sharper….or not, as the case may be.

When do criminal records really matter?
When do criminal records really matter?

One very common use of our background check service is to search for criminal record history. Customers can be motivated to do this for a number of valid reasons, many of which you can review on our Dos and Don’ts page here.  As we have covered extensively on this blog in the recent past, online dating has provided people with a means of meeting endless potential matches, but also a seemingly endless number of scams, too.

Some prolific online daters use BeenVerified’s background check service as a prerequisite for going on a first date in person. As one loyal customer wrote on our Facebook page, “I won’t date him if he hasn’t BeenVerified.”

There are many other reasons a criminal background check could be useful, or even essential. Many of these reasons could have to do with your children and any new people in their lives. One customer told us how, as a mother, she just had a “funny feeling” about one of the new parents carpooling her child to school. It turned out he was a registered sex offender.

Not all examples will be so dramatic, of course. Rather than any serious crime, that same mother could have spotted a history of speeding violations, which could have given her pause and at least served as a reason to have a conversation with the other parent. Yet, spotting speeding tickets on the record of a potential online date may not carry the same importance, particularly if the incidents are well in the past.

These types of nuances got us thinking: when and in what context do criminal records actually matter? A speeding ticket in one context could be dismissed by one person and yet be a deal breaker for someone else. Yet there are many other examples of when someone’s criminal record could also not be so black and white. An isolated error in judgment when someone was in college decades ago is surely not the same as a history of unreformed criminal behavior.

This week we will look at what drives people to search for criminal record information and when and why a criminal record may matter, whether with a potential new date, a neighbor, someone interacting with your child or anyone playing a significant role in your life.

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?


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.