In September 2019 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Match Group, Inc., the owner of dozens of dating app companies including Match.com, OurTime.com, OK Cupid, Tinder and PlentyOfFish. Says, Andrew Smith, the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, “We believe that Match.com conned people into paying for subscriptions via messages the company knew were from scammers.”
In addition to using “fake love interest advertisements,” the FTC complaint also alleges that Match.com deceived consumers into subscriptions with inadequately disclosed guarantees. They’re also accused of deceptive billing and cancellation practices in violation of the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act, practices which made it overly hard to cancel and difficult to get proper customer support.
By Match’s own estimates, from June 2016 to May 2018, consumers purchased 499,691 subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving an ad promoting a fraudulent communication.
Along with Match scamming people with fake ads and messages, there are a host of bad people on Match and other sites whose only mission is to lure in unsuspecting members and scam them out of money.
The FTC says that most consumers aren’t aware that up to 30% of Match members who register each day are scammers. These shady characters create fake dating profiles to perpetrate romance scams, fake ads, extortion and phishing schemes.
The FTC said last year that romance scams ranked number one on their list of total reported fraud losses. The FTC’s Consumer Sentinel had more than 21,000 romance scam complaints in 2018 with reported losses of $143 million.
Should I give up online dating because of fraud risk?
Before we panic and flee all of our online dating sites, let’s put this in perspective.
Total fraud losses for 2018 amounted to $148 billion (versus $143 million in romance fraud) with 1.4 million total cases reported (versus 21,000 in romance fraud.) So in total, only 1.5% of the total number of cases were romance fraud, yet they accounted for 9.6% of the dollar total.
We’re surrounded by risks for fraud in our daily lives, yet we have to keep on living and participating in the things that make up our lives. We do that with common sense and vigilance.
As the chart below illustrates, we’re far more likely to be scammed by someone impersonating a family member, a government official or someone in business.
The important thing to note about the romance fraud statistics is that the median reported loss for romance scams was $2600 versus $375 for the “average” fraud loss. If you get taken in a romance scheme, you’re likely to get taken for a lot more than average.
Avoiding scammers from online dating sites
The best way to prevent such fraud is through awareness. Be aware you’re probably more vulnerable than normal because your desire to find “the one” is in play. Your expectations and hopes are probably quite high. It makes you susceptible to a scammer who’s saying the right things.
Romance fraudsters know this and they know exactly what to say. They also know the average take for a successful scam is high so they’ll put more effort into it than they would into other scams.
Fraud has always existed where there is vulnerability.
The surprise is that Match Group is alleged to have used fraudulent accounts —something against which they should be protecting us— to take advantage of users and boost their revenues.
To answer my original question about avoiding online dating due to fraud—I would absolutely continue to use online dating if I were still in the market. (We’re not affiliated with any dating site.)
There are two things I did prior to signing up for OurTime (a Match Group property) a few years ago, having been burned before by other less-than-scrupulous online businesses.
- I made sure I understood the cancellation process completely. Once I met Daisy, I cancelled the few dating services I had joined, and I didn’t have any problems. Most of these dating apps could certainly make their cancellation process a LOT easier. Perhaps that will be one result of the Match suit.
- I made sure they had offices somewhere in the US and that I knew how to contact support or administration should the need arise.
If I didn’t feel comfortable with either of the above, I simply didn’t get a paid subscription.
Whatever dating app you decide to use, go in with eyes open and common sense.
If you’re over sixty and serious about finding a partner, online dating is essential. As Daisy writes in 10 of the Biggest Online Dating Mistakes,
“If you really want to up your chances of finding your ideal partner, you MUST go where you’ll find the biggest pool of singles over 60 who are looking. You should be spending most of your dating time using these sites, unless you have an enormous network of people who will help you find your ideal partner.”
With the right mindset about online dating and with some smart dating practices, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.
These related posts can guide you to a safe and successful outcome to your online dating experience. And you can have a lot of fun while doing it.
As we’ve just seen, there are risks to everything in life. Yet once you’ve identified them, you can manage them. This article will help you successfully navigate these risks.
One of the keys to a pro-active dating campaign that gets results is to create a great online dating profile. This article shows you how to create one that attracts the right partner for you.
Not only that, but profiles of your potential dates also give you clues, sometimes painfully obvious, as to who’s a scammer. As you get accustomed to using online dating services, and to seeing legitimate profiles, these profile red flags become easier to spot.
And, if you fall prey and start communicating with a scammer, with a little consideration you should be able to tell that something is fishy. Before things go too far, you can back out of that relationship, and move on to someone else who is hopefully legit.
Have a story or tip to share about an online dating app? Let us know in the comments.
And be sure to download your Free Copy of The Secret to Mature Dating Success.