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Private investigator creates business to keep online daters safe, says people are ‘blinded by hope’

Julie Erickson is a private investigator who created a business to help people stay safe while they look for love online.
Posted at 7:46 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 20:09:01-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Julie Erickson and her boyfriend of three years broke up in June 2019, she decided to jump back into the dating scene quickly, she said.

It was her coping mechanism to help her move on, Erickson said. So she created an account with a dating website and met a few people, and one man in particular who wasn’t her type, she said.

However she challenged herself to keep an open mind.

“But my gut still told me you should do more. You should figure out more,” Erickson said during an interview with FOX 17 Thursday afternoon. “So I completed a background check.”

Immediately, Erickson, who was already a licensed investigator helping an attorney with a few cases, learned that the man’s name was not the one he told her, she said.

“When I located him I found multiple criminal convictions, not just charges but convictions for domestic violence,” Erickson said. “He also had multiple evictions. And, he also had a CSC charge.”

Erickson was floored, she said. However, she was grateful she followed her gut. She told him what she found and let him go.

“Had I not looked him up and began a relationship with him, what could I have gotten into,” she said. “That’s what I really want to do is keep women and men safe. And, let them know who they’re really talking to.”

So, Erickson created a private investigation service called JAE Investigations LLC, she said. Her goal is to keep her clients safe while they look for love online. She'll use her investigative skills and resources to look into anyone her clients ask, for a fee.

“People go and are sometimes blinded by hope,” Erickson said. “You want somebody to love you and you want to be loved and that’s OK. But you also want to be safe.”

Erickson said her top piece of advice: ‘go with your gut.’

She added it’s best to pay attention to all the red flags. When people ask you to go off of the dating website just for them and when they ask for pictures, those are huge red flags she found in her research in developing her business.

“They’ll say 'well I want a picture just for me.' You send maybe a risqué picture and they kind of have you,” she said. “They could use that [and say] ‘if you don’t give me this money, if you don’t do this for me then I’m going to send this picture to your child's school or your job.’”

Erickson recommended that online daters should ask a lot of questions. It’s the best way to protect yourself from being ‘scammed’, she said.

And, it’s OK to be suspicious and always ‘go with your gut.’

“Be careful,” Erickson stressed. “If something’s telling you ‘this doesn’t match up,’ it probably doesn’t.”