FTC Fines Online Dating Site For Using 'Fake, Computer-Generated Profiles' To Lure Guys Into Buying Premium Memberships
from the because-guys dept
In the past, we’ve written about lawsuits involving dating site Match.com and “dating site for married people” Ashley Madison over concerns about fake profiles being set up on the site to lure in paying users. Now it appears the FTC is stepping in on such things, and it’s reached a settlement (pdf) with one company, JDI Dating, which runs a bunch of dating sites, for tricking lots of people into buying premium plans based on fake profiles sending messages to “free” users.
According to a complaint filed by the FTC, JDI Dating and William Mark Thomas operate a worldwide dating service via 18 websites, including cupidswand.com, flirtcrowd.com and findmelove.com. The defendants offered a free plan that allowed users to set up a profile with personal information and photos. As soon as a new user set up a free profile, he or she began to receive messages that appeared to be from other members living nearby, expressing romantic interest or a desire to meet. However, users were unable to respond to these messages without upgrading to a paid membership. Membership plans cost from $10 to $30 per month, with subscriptions generally ranging from one to 12 months.
The messages were almost always from fake, computer-generated profiles ? ?Virtual Cupids? ? created by the defendants, with photos and information designed to closely mimic the profiles of real people. A small ?v? encircled by a ?C? on the profile page was the only indication that the profiles were fake. Users were not likely to see ? much less understand ? this icon. The fake profiles and messages caused many users to upgrade to paid subscriptions.
It’s actually somewhat surprising that they even indicated that the profiles were fake with that tiny VC logo. I would have expected that a company doing this sort of thing wouldn’t have even bothered.