The term “Dirty John” refers to the true story of a woman named Debra Newell and her relationship with a man she met online, named John Meehan. It started out like any good love story, with lots of initial sparks and a romantic elopement. However, everything soon turned sour as Debra continuously ignored red flag after red flag. She and her family soon found out that John was not who he seemed to be; and had taken advantage of more than one woman while having several criminal charges against him including gun and drug charges, as well as being a felon and having restraining orders against him. He was labeled “a ticking time bomb, capable of unpredictable violence.” The nickname “Dirty John” had been given to him by classmates.  

In this day and age, it is so important to stay vigilant and safe with all the possible connections you can make, due to the internet. Not everyone is a good person, or has your best interests at heart. Dating sites and even social media sites are the perfect places for predators like “Dirty John” to hunt. So how can you protect yourself? What are the signs and red flags to look for? Below are ten ways to spot a Dirty John for yourself and for any loved ones you suspect may be a victim to this type of person. 

1 – He has no social media profiles. This is a red flag especially nowadays. Maybe an older man could get away with this one, but it is still good to be wary. Even if a guy has profiles and they are relatively blank, this could mean he has things to hide. Do not be afraid to ask questions and do a little light prying. Personal safety is more important than being polite. 

2 – His personal life is an unknown. He never talks about family and you have never met any of his friends. He has never clearly said what he does for a living. These are all red flags to keep an eye out for. Family, friends, and work are usually the most important things in a person’s life. If he never engages in conversations involving these subjects, this is a very bad sign. There is a difference between being a “private person” and being suspiciously alone and unspecific. 

3 – Your friends and/or family have bad gut feelings. This will be more than that one aunt who never likes anyone griping about a new boyfriend. Introducing a prospective beau to family and friends can bring some things out you may be blind to. Never underestimate first impressions made by those you trust. Ask them to be honest about their feelings and to tell you anything they feel could be a serious issue. 

4 – His stories and timelines do not add up. Maybe when you first met he said he was an only child, but then tells you he has to help his sister with something. Beware of quick covers to stories like this such as “I just meant I was the only boy.” He may also try gas lighting you if you catch him in a lie. Do not fall for this tactic. You are not crazy. Call him out and do not back down. If he is a truly honest person, he will admit any lies and hopefully have a valid explanation. 

5 – It seems like he always needs money. Maybe it only starts out as twenty dollars here and there. Then he suddenly has this big emergency story and “needs your help.” Be cautious of this sort of situation unless you have proof of what he is saying. Grown adults can usually take out loans and/or have people other than a new significant other to borrow money from. This is a very popular way for con artists to steal money from well-meaning people. Ask questions about the problem and if possible, get proof and use your judgment if you feel he is being sincere. 

6 – Seems too good to be true. Of course, we all know “that couple” who always gets along and are so adorable you could vomit, but realistically, this situation is rare. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If he is always agreeing with you and/or has the same exact views as you all the time. Take a look into your conversation style. Is he leading and revealing his identity on his own, or his he taking cues from you? Does he always just agree or say “me too” to everything you say? This can be a warning sign of him trying to be the “perfect guy” for you and insert himself in your life for nefarious purposes. Ask questions and allow a back and forth flow when trying to get to know a possible new boyfriend. This will most likely help you get a more honest picture of the kind of guy he is. 

7 – He always has excuses for unhealthy behavior. We all have bad habits, and that is normal. What is not normal is when it is willful and constantly justified by ridiculous excuses. Someone who is not willing to grow and is dependent on you to “fix” or “take care” of them is a huge red flag. It is never your responsibility to be a crutch for another person, especially in a romantic relationship. A healthy relationship requires both parties to be growing individually and encouraging each other. 

8 – He is highly defensive. This can manifest itself in a few different ways. Usually from you trying to ask normal questions when getting to know someone. However, it will be a bit more severe than a regular person not wanting to talk about something. He could raise his voice, punch something, sulk, or even make you feel in danger. This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and you should distance yourself as soon as possible. Someone who is violently defensive is always going to escalate. It can/will also show up if you catch him in a lie, so be mindful and pay attention to these situations. 

9 – He has a criminal record. This will be more than some “dumb teenager mistakes.” Run a background check and if there are violent crimes, charges for thievery, or any restraining orders out for him. It is time to do some serious reconsidering. If you would not prefer to just immediately cut ties, (which is the safest option) and would like to ask him about it, be sure to meet in a public place during the daytime and have a friend nearby and/or on call if things take a turn. Also remember to keep your phone charged if you need to call the police yourself. 

10 – He will want to meet too soon or not soon enough. Both of these are red flags because of different reasons. Meeting too quickly can be a sign of wanting to catch you as soon as possible because he sees you as easy prey to get what he wants out of. While not really pushing to meet at all can be to keep the “romantic mystique” alive, and you engaged. It is amazing how attached you can get to someone without even meeting, so be careful that you are not being cat fished or taken advantage of by that stranger on the other side of your screen. 

Of course, there are good guys out there, and it’s important to keep an open mind as well as open eyes. Some of these on their own can be justified by extenuating circumstances, but when you have more and more issues popping up, it is definitely a sign to get out as soon as possible. Always remember to keep your personal safety at the forefront and do not put yourself in a vulnerable position before you are sure you found a keeper.