Online dating is cash-cow for private investigators -

Love struck Romeos singing a street-suss serenade are avoiding Dire Straits by hiring private investigators to check out their online lovers.

While the number of people meeting the love of their life online has increased, so have the numbers of people who have been diddled by handing over their cheque book, or ended up in a life of misery after finding out the love of their life is a "Mother raper or Father stabber".

Horror stories have been around since the early days of internet dating, but lately they have been pushed into the spotlight after serial rapist Jeffrey Maralis used Match.com as his online shopping tool of choice.

According to AP, this has created a new industry for private dicks. For a small fee, plus expenses, a number of US companies are making a killing by performing background checks on potential flames encountered on dating sites.

It quotes Robert Buchholz, a retired New York State police captain who co-founded MyMatchChecker.com which enables people to request background checks on anyone they've met on a dating site for $9.95.

If you have just met someone online Buchholz will tell you if they are a sex pest or have any criminal convictions. If you are getting closer he will look to see if they have any pending bankruptcy hearings pending. If a person is thinking of shacking up with someone, Bucholz will check out their Statewide criminal record and how many points they have on their drivers' licence.

These private online investigations are also getting complaints about their activities. There are dark whispers of mishandled information. It seems that after a few horror stories, people have decided that looking for a mate should no longer be decided by the heart, but a ruthless screening of a person's entire past.