A picture is worth a thousand words, maybe sometimes

Ever try Internet dating? How do you know that picture is for real? Is her age shaded downwards? Or what if the guy is still married?

Here is one option:

Zeri now sifts through this city’s bustling singles scene with a local off-line dating service called CheckMates, which screens its members – some 90% of whom are refugees from the online world – using everything from Google searches to driver’s license verifications.

“My clients care about physical and financial safety, but more simply, they worry about people’s ability to misrepresent themselves online,” says CheckMates founder Carole Shattil, who for $1,500 and up will personally scour the city’s singles scene in search of a potential match.

“I meet every one of my clients,” who number around 1,100, she says. “Online services can’t do that.”

Or perhaps the photo poster can offer outside certification:

Hoping to ensure the quality angle are upstart businesses such as LookBetterOnline.com, an 8-month-old Los Angeles company that links daters with local professional photographers.

The resulting head shots, which cost $129 and aim to walk the tightrope between oddball self-portrait and soft-focus silliness, can be posted on any online dating site and are accompanied by a logo that notes the month and year the photo was shot. Gold certification (an additional $20) adds age, height and weight while platinum status ($50) includes a criminal record, marital status and bankruptcy filing review.

Of course some daters may prefer a criminal record in their significant other. And I enjoyed that last bit about the bankruptcy review. For another $100, perhaps they will report how many “naked puts” you have written.

How about this service?

Of growing concern are “organized efforts to bilk American men,” often in the form of foreign women who ask for plane fare to the USA and then vanish.

“We’re trying to clean up this industry,” says Herb Vest, founder of Dallas-based TrueBeginnings, a 6-month-old site that boasts a partnership with a criminal-record database firm called Rapsheets.com, which stockpiles 150 million records compiled from more than 110 state and county agencies.

“I don’t want to introduce someone to a felon,” Vest says.

Here is the full story. And yes, sometimes I title these posts “Markets in Everything.”

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