SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Internet dating websites have become a popular way to find companionship, but for one Shreveport women, a cyber quest for Mr. Right turned into a nightmare.
A few years ago a women we'll call Jennifer signed on to several different internet dating sites to meet men. Recently she found someone who sparked her interest.
"He seemed like a pretty decent guy, a little eager to get involved," Jennifer said.
Having experience with online dating, Jennifer thought she was covering all her bases when she decided to meet him.
She said she "always asks all the questions of 'Do you have children? What do you do for work?'"
When Jennifer finally met up with her internet beau in public, she realized she had no idea what she was getting herself in to.
"(I) found out, there was someone there from his past that called him from a different name," she said.
After doing a little research, his name popped up somewhere Jennifer never expected, on a sex offender registry.
"I totally felt like I had been conned and from what I found on the sex offender site, it was with children," said Jennifer.
William Tuggle with the Louisiana State Probation and Patrol Office coordinates all the sex offenders for Caddo and Bossier Parishes. He says anything and everything that deals with sex offenders goes through him. Tuggle says it's common for sex offenders to use online dating sites.
"They do absolutely no background checks whatsoever," he said.
A recent study revealed that most online daters assume that internet dating sites do criminal screenings on their clients, but many of them don't.
Steve Hall with the FBI says online dating may be an easy but dangerous place to find companionship. "There are a lot of things people can hide on these anonymous websites," Hall says.
Tuggle says, "This is a very serious thing when you meet someone online and you have no idea who they are. When you are on these sites, the only person you can trust is yourself. You can't trust these websites to do background checks."
Some dating sites do criminal background checks, but by changing one digit in a social security number, or adding one letter to a name, the very worse imaginable sex offenders can go undetected.
Jennifer says the way he spelled his name was different from what it was on the sex offender registry.
She still visits her favorite online dating sites but now she is more cautious.
"It's the old cliché of buyer beware, well web searcher beware," she says.
Jennifer learned the hard way about the right questions to ask when she meets someone new online, questions she hopes you will remember to ask as well.
"Are you wanted, have you been convicted, have you been in jail,"
And according to Tuggle, "It could possibly save your life."
Tuggle says the best way to find if the person you are interested online is a sex offender is go to www.LPS.org.