Fraudulent Practices of Internet Dating Sites

Users of two on-line dating services have recently filed lawsuits against the matchmakers, accusing them of fraudulent practices.

A Match.com subscriber claims the service employed women to respond to ads posted by men whose memberships were about to expire and, in his case, date them. He knows this because, he says, his cyber-sweetie told him so.

A Yahoo Personals subscriber stated that the service posts bogus profiles. He discovered this after finding the same woman’s picture included with multiple profiles in search results for widely separated cities. This was reported, ironically, by the AP in a story that appeared in the Yahoo web site’s news summary.

Virtual matchmaking is so open to corruption that it hurts to think about it.

How simple it must be, in a per-click world, for a systems administrator to sort profiles by number of views and send a generic message to all the losers at the bottom who aren’t getting any action. That could explain the number of replies from women who’ve been well out of my age range, who obviously didn’t read the ad, whose messages were definitely generic. Who, if they had read what I was looking for, and were serious, wouldn’t be responding!

How simple it is, in cyberspace, to assume a completely different identity. On the Net, there’s simply no way to know who’s really who. And the honor system died a long time ago.

Virtual matchmaking is so money-driven that it makes joining a monastery an acceptable alternative.

Nearly all the sites demand a profile before any serious searching can take place; before you can determine if your time will be worth it. Yahoo at least allows a few in-the-clear searches. Contacting anyone there, or searching past the cutoff point, will cost 19.95, all major credit cards accepted.(What? No Paypal?)

A seven day free trial is offered; seven days being barely enough time to exchange hellos. Since it’s a negative option deal, you’ll have to remember to cancel it. The hope is that you forget. Warp-speed improvements, however, now permit free trials to be cancelled by e-mail. Not that long ago, in a world where e-mail is the standard, a hard-copy letter, mailed in an envelope with a stamp on it, was required.

The cloistered life looks better each day. But I still wasn’t ready to give up.

Out of curiosity, over a weekend when I was feeling very fran�§ais, I looked around for French personals sites. Somewhere out there, I thought, must be une jeune fille ISO a pen pal who also wants to sharpen their language skills.

There’s really only one site, and it won’t even let you read profiles before demanding one of your own, and then money. There are three levels of membership: Standard, Silver, Gold. (The Olympics really have affected everyday life.) Of the fifty or so profiles whose limited visible details — user name, location, and intro line — I did read, only two or three looked like they were submitted by actual French women. The other subscribers appeared to be garden variety babes looking for companionship wherever they can find it. I seriously doubt if there are really 229 French-speaking women in Michigan in search of l’amour. But finding out will cost me at least 11.99 per month.

Profile deleted, will be removed during the next site update. Next!

Of the six other search results offering French personals, five web sites linked back to this place. So it’s basically them or nothing.

The whole process wouldn’t seem so snarky if I didn’t sense the presence of a hand reaching through my monitor, ISO my wallet. It wouldn’t if the underlying purpose wasn’t the buying and selling of people’s feelings and dreams as if they were commodities to be day-traded. It wouldn’t if the whole scene wasn’t end-justifies-means, as is apparently the case.

None of this is surprising, however, at a point in human history when everything is up for auction to the highest bidder, where traveling the path to the heart requires a Gold Membership.

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