We met at a Professional Event, during a break between presentations. He was built tall and looked muscular under his business casual clothes. He had a Leadership Name tag that touted him as a pretty high-up leader in the organization. He greeted me with a charming smile as we struck up a conversation. “Hi, I’m Joe.” We talked about his professional career, and he described his passion to help people. I was fascinated and wanted to learn from him. He was polished, seemed successful, and a great conversationalist. We exchanged information and agreed to continue the conversation over coffee sometime.
My personal policy is to Google anyone I meet with, partly to gather talking points (family? school? work? hobbies?), but also so I have an idea of who I am talking with. When I searched Joe, nothing came up. So I searched for Joseph, combined with his general area. phone, email, etc. After a couple minutes of digging, I found him dressed in orange, with handcuffs, smiling as he was being arraigned as a Sex Offender. My new buddy Joe had served several years in prison and had been out for about two years when we met. With this information (that certainly wouldn’t have come up in casual conversation), I decided against having coffee or any more conversations with him.
How can YOU be more safe by using Google?
- Progressively use the information you have. First/Last name- see what comes up. Name and Phone number. Name and email. Name and general geographical area. Try different combinations.
- Look through social media posts and pictures. They tell a lot of stories. Look for nick names, connections, etc.
- Look for their associates, family, etc. and gain what you can from that information.
- Look for Employer History (LinkedIn is great for this) to get a feel for their professional background.
- If NOTHING Appears, WATCH OUT. We are all out there in some way. If you don’t find anything on someone after using the last 4 tips, you have someone who isn’t telling the truth, or is good at hiding (but why are they hiding- at the most innocent, they don’t want to be found on principal, which still informs you on the kind of person you’re looking at. More likely they are hiding for a reason though).
If all looks fine, then proceed with your meeting, and be happy. You have this background info now, and you will have some great talking points. You can also recognize red flags in conversation, if they say something that doesn’t add up with what you saw on your search.
IS THIS INTRUSIVE? Some people may say “yes” to this question. I disagree. I typically spend 5-10 minutes on searches like this. You aren’t searching their phone or going through their sock drawer. You are simply noting the public information out there. I have saved myself and some of my friends and family from terrible mistakes using these techniques:
- I refused a business partnership with a martial arts studio after I found that the partner of my associate had been arrested dozens of times for Domestic Violence.
- I was able to have a serious heart-to-heart with a young man who wanted to date my daughter, and had good fodder to vet him out before the conversation.
- I saved myself from a business deal with a guy who had been disciplined in several states for bad business practices (and lost his professional license as a result).
If I hadn’t looked up these people, I would have had some serious blind spots in my interaction, and possibly could have left an opening for victimization, or at the very least, regret. Here are some situations where it is imperative to look them up first:
- Meeting Someone from a Dating Site
- Hiring a Handyman or Housekeeper (or any other professional home-helper)
- Buying or Selling Goods on Craigslist (or other online garage-sale type sites)
- Showing Property to a Prospective Buyer
- Received a Call to Check out a New Real Estate Listing
All of the above situations often require us to meet people that we often know nothing about.
Most of the time, the person on the other end of the interaction is who they say they are.
Often, they have some dark piece of past that you should know about before moving forward.
Sometimes the person who contacted you was targeting you for a crime.
Follow your intuition while online and in person. If you have the feeling something isn’t right, YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT! Don’t go. Cancel. If you go, and your gut instinct tells you that something isn’t right, Please listen to that intuition/gut feeling and get out of there.
For more information and practical safety advice, Like us on Facebook. You can also host an Empowered Safety workshop for your Office or Group.
Michelle Moore is the CEO of Empowered, LLC. She is a National Public Speaker, and runs Personal Safety programs for Corporations, Associations, and Individuals, and specializes in Realtor® Safety (RealPoweredSafety.com). Click Here to book Michelle for your next event.
Be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!