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DIA: The Dating Intelligence Agency

Originally Posted: March 22, 2007

Heather Buchanan

So you're at a fabulous fundraiser or ritzy restaurant and you see someone who immediately captures your attention. Maybe there's time for you two to get together and spend the next three hours swapping your life story, tax returns, and medical records, or perhaps you're only left with a name and a number. While Prince Charming relied solely on shoe size, most players in the dating game are looking for a little more information about their new love interest. For better or worse the e-invasion is here and tech-savvy social sleuthers can use the World Wide Web as their own DIA, Dating Intelligence Agency.

One of the oldest tools of the trade still exists in book form, The Social Register, sometimes referred to jokingly as "the stud book." First published in 1886, the register was considered a "visiting list" of fashionable ladies who were mostly of English or Dutch descent whose families built New York City. The list expanded to encompass other cities and now the national version is published twice a year. These are the pedigreed families but newcomers can petition the Advisory Committee with the proper recommendations, and about 5% of those who apply each year are added. While the books are only available to members, they are also available at the New York Public Library or occasionally, as are all things known to man, on eBay. What the register of 25,000 will tell you is not only a person's family lineage, but address, educational backgrounds, and club affiliations as well as marriages, divorces, and births. There is also the summer version which includes "Dilatory Domiciles" or their summer residences including the location of their yachts.

What is over are the days of hiring a private detective. For a fee a number of sites such as howtoinvestigate.com will search public records - federal, state, and county which will tell you about someone's criminal record, lawsuits or liens, address history, marriage history, and age as well as property ownership. Some of the information is only available in a state by state search. If your new guy or gal has a stellar record in New York, that doesn't mean there aren't skeletons in their California closet. What you also may be able to discover, however is whether your new interest is living with someone, has filed for bankruptcy, or owns a boat or plane. Some corporate information or group affiliations may also be accessible.

While it may be considered impolite to talk about purchase prices of homes in real estate, it is public record here in the Hamptons. Anyone can log on to the property tax assessment role in Southampton at http://town.southampton.ny.us and plug in the street address to see just what someone's residence is worth, and remember the assessed value is usually less than the market value. You can also comb through the weekly deed transfers in the local papers to see who's buying what.

Don't forget that we live in the land of party pictures. You may very well google your new interest and find images from Hamptons.com. Another good source where photos by our own Rob Rich can be found is newyorksocialdiary.com, imagesofsociety.com and nyseen.com. It's not only who is being photographed but with whom they are pictured. Before you see the announcement in the nuptials you'll probably see them pictured together first or vice versa. Two high net worth recent divorcees pictured together are fueling hot gossip. And if your new fabulous guy insists that his past relationship is over, yet he is still seen everywhere with his "ex," you may have to wonder.

Due to the truth in campaign finance efforts, another thing you will be able to discover is your new love interest's political affiliation. At campaignmoney.com an individual's amount and designation of campaign contribution can be found to both political candidates and PACs.

And finally with the plethora of blogs, any person on the dating scene may find themselves either venerated or vilified in a post. Since libel laws have only recently been applied to these sometimes anonymous web postings, anyone who gets information on someone this way should take it with a large grain of salt. One woman's Benedict Arnold may be another's Romeo.

What all of this means is that each one of us, even if we aren't in the Social Register, is living life in an open book. Better to be open and honest at that first encounter than to build a house of half truth cards. Remember, the DIA is watching you.

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