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Meeting Mr. Right and not Mr. Felon

When it comes to Internet dating, anyone can portray themselves as wonderful and squeaky-clean.

Even if the facts prove otherwise.

To avoid that potentially dangerous situation, a Largo couple has created an online dating site that offers background checks and safety advice. Members can submit to a background investigation, which screens for felonies, sex offenders and marriage licenses and misdemeanors (minus stuff like parking tickets). They also can do a fingerprint test.

Members who clear the checks get a "verified" notation on their profile alerting prospective suitors that they are safe to date. Results of a personality test seek to pair the best matches.

Matthew and Lindsey Blackburn started the site,, last month to help couples find safe, compatible dates. They wanted to alleviate worries about whether a person has a criminal past or is married.

"You can be anyone you want on the Internet,'' said Matthew, 26. "This brings a little more honesty to the game.''

Membership starts at $18.95 a month for verified members and $28.95 a month for nonverified members, plus administrative fees. As of last week, the site had 120 members.

Blackburn came up with the idea last year while listening to the radio. He heard an ad for a dating service and an unrelated story about a woman who was murdered. He connected the two to come up with a dating site that focuses on safety, one of a few of its kind.

Safer Dates works with relationship, security and astrology experts to help singles navigate the dating scene. A martial arts instructor offers self-defense seminars. Next week, there's a speed-dating event.

Blackburn admits his small pool of members makes it tough to compete with huge dating sites, such as eHarmony and Still, he's hopeful the dangers of cyber-predators and liars, in general, will lead singles to his site.

Meet that law-abiding someone

Safer Dates holds its first speed-dating event on Thursday at the Flo Lounge, 2325 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater. Registration starts at 8 p.m., dating starts at 9. Cost is $10 to $35 per person. or (727) 287-9012.

Meeting Mr. Right and not Mr. Felon 03/20/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 1:28pm]
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