Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
dating site, fake profiles, fines, ftc

Companies:
jdi dating



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.
Given that this sort of thing seems to happen quite a bit on dating sites, I wonder if lots of other dating sites are now rushing to scrub fake profiles...

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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 7:47am

    "... computer-generated profiles – 'Virtual Cupids'..."

    ...inflaming the passions of Virtual Stupids.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:09am

    There once was a Virtual Cupid
    Arousing our male members' group id,
    With bosoms enticing
    At premium pricing,
    We truly can say "I'm With Stupid".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:12am

    I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but I've been on a few dating sights. Part of the fun of dating sights for me was running the other person threw the Turing Test. I've had several fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ethorad (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      Why are you ashamed to admit it?

      Why is meeting people on a website any different to meeting them at a pub, club, archaeology lecture, etc

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:43am

        Re: Re:

        There is still a stigma attached to online dating. But to be honest, it's more about being on multiple dating sites and failing. People don't like it when you start running them threw a Turing Test.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "There is still a stigma attached to online dating."

          Not as much as there used to be. I discovered an interesting thing, though. When I tell people that I met my wife through online dating, more often than not they'll respond with their own online dating experiences. I think the perception of a stigma is largely that -- a perception -- and that a very large percentage, if not a majority, of people in the dating pool have used online dating at least some.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          darren, 4 Jul 2017 @ 12:40am

          Re: Re: Re:

          yes i use dating site and well on to the fake profiles the fakes you can run them thought he test and it can be quite fun catching these dishonest sods out and ye sthay dont like it and in alot of cases get very cross that tthay been sussed but what riles me most is the computer generated meassages possing to be real profiles of real people it should be iligal to miislead people and rip them off in such a cheap and digusting way

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:41am

      Re:

      those were likely the real people

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    beech, 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:26am

    What? ! Didn't the DEA file a business methods patent on this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:53am

    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

    Someone was surprised by this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:54am

    And to think that I proposed to HeidiHi.

    ~Manti Te'o

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 8:56am

    FTC fines "a" single dating site? What a bunch of morons. Every dating site does this. Match.com, Zoosk, eHarmony and many others. So, FTC only fines one site for doing this? What a load of horsecrap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      Not saying that you're wrong, but... I met my wife through match.com and so have some experience with them. I was never contacted by someone who wasn't a real person.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re:

        I met my wife through match.com and so have some experience with them.
        I bet that was awkward.

        Husband: "Hi Honey. What're you doing here? I thought you were going to see an old friend."
        Wife: "... I was. What're you doing here? I thought you were working on a house project today."
        Husband: "I needed to take a break and I got a message from an old buddy *cough* to meet here..."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Digitari, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          this goes along with...

          To married male in front of his wife; "Joe, I heard you were sleeping with a married woman" Blushing frustrated Joe: "no where did you hear that?"

          "In your wedding vows"

          or conversely

          "I only sleep with married women, she just happens to be my wife!"

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 9:15am

    They need to be taking a close look at zoosk's facebook app for sure!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:05am

    Deniability icon

    My guess is that they put the icon on there so that, if caught, they could claim that they told the user that the profile was fake and it's not their fault the user was too uninformed, too eager, etc. to notice that they were being drawn in by a fake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:18am

    VC logo

    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.

    They probably thought that using this logo would provide a defence against complaints like the one from the FTC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 30 Oct 2014 @ 10:47am

    really surprised?

    well I have been online since before microphones were introduced to chat rooms... what fun it was to get on a mic in a room full of folks you cannot see..1998

    Then webcams hit yahoo (2000 or so) I was one of 100 cameras available to view in those days, Folks thought that just by owning a camera you got "special" treatment. It was more a nightmare, everyone wanted to see your camera view (back then, everyone had CLOTHES on, some even Dressed for the webcam)

    then the begging started, please show some skin (usually the back of the middle finger from any female dumb enough to get infront of a cam) so then when a female DID get on cam and showed skin then recordings started.

    The faking started about 20 mins after the fist girl on a non pay site showed skin, Some guys would even dress up RealDolls and use them on cam as real women,(to induce real women to show) sad and funny at the same time.

    None of this is new
    (I'm a 19 year old buxom girl, I have no cam, mic, keyboard, mouse, monitor,Cpu or harddrive, can I watch you two fuck on cam? I have some Stolen porn pics I'll show ya..1999 meme)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 30 Oct 2014 @ 6:10pm

    Not surprising

    It's not surprising that sites do this, but what's surprising is that that FTC finally caught up to them.
    This about it: how do these sites get people to pay and join, rather than staying as a free member? The sites have to tempt people with matches.

    When I joined eHarmony years ago, they would send me e-mails saying they found a perfect match for me. I would read through the profile and send an e-mail to the lady, but then I'd get either "That member has closed her profile" or no reply. So if that member closed her profile, why did eHarmony send me an e-mail saying it was a match?
    Answer: to make sure I was still getting enough matches to keep me as a paid member.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 8:12am

      Re: Not surprising

      Yeah, as bad as that is, it's not as bad as what the FTC is talking about here -- having fake people reach out and contact you so you pay them money to have the ability to respond to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 31 Oct 2014 @ 2:37am

    Based on Japanese technology. Ahem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2014 @ 6:07am

    Birds do it, bees do it, even automatic computer generated profiles do it…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SilverBlade, 1 Nov 2014 @ 7:41pm

    They should just make a law against fake profile sites, and a fine of $10.000 per day per profile and per user messaging those fake profiles

    Then we'll see how many sites rush to fix the issue..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan G Difino, 4 Nov 2014 @ 5:20am

    Nice Limerick!

    Here's one;

    There once was a huge hole named debt
    I painstakingly dug bet by bet.
    Be it cribbage, pool or chess,
    Opponents were wise to invest.
    Now there's plenty of space to sublet..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    deepika, 7 Nov 2014 @ 3:53am

    My thought exactly

    Hi,

    Great post back there. people are looking for partner online nowadays. Its just that they have to think and choose whom to deal with. Will have to take action on cyber way.......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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