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...

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


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  1. 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.

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