Video Introductions singles organization is founded in 1977 in Concord, California by Social Worker Norman Mickey to provide singles with video dating and singles counseling and education. The first national singles convention is held in San Francisco in 1979. Norman Mickey is invited to make a presentation at the convention - "Compatibility and Finding that Perfect Mate"
The first consumer guide to dating services is published by Video Introductions in 1982, alerting singles to deceptive, unfair and high pressure sales tactics and lures of some well known dating services in the industry.
Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Singles
Video Introductions of Concord has put out a consumer guide "Things to Look for (in a Singles Dating Service) before you sign up.
-KGO Radio News
Norman Mickey B.A.
Michael Mayer Ph.D.
Video Introductions web site is developed. Exclusive partner compatibility assessment software is developed. Norman Mickey submits an original, innovative concept and proposal to President Clinton's task force on welfare reform, to help single welfare recipients get off of public assistance through dating and marital assistance services. American Association for Single People is founded in 1999 by attorney Tom Coleman to give single people the same rights as married persons.
"Social Worker Norman Mickey has seen the ugly effects poor marriages can have on parents and children, so he's trying to stop the marriages before they happen. 'I wanted to do something more socially redeeming...I turned to social work because that's where I felt I was doing the most work for people...Many people marry for all the wrong reasons... We shed some light on that and help them make better decisions the next time around' ...His contribution to marital bliss is Video Introductions, a comprehensive dating service that helps singles avoid the frogs and get straight to the princes."
- Dave Thom
Daily Ledger/Post Dispatch
"Forget nuclear disarmament and Yakov Smirnoff. The end of the cold war brought about something much more momentous, according to the Russian Connection brochure... the availability of numerous desirable Russian women with an amazing attraction to American men. The Concord based dating service, part of Video Introductions, provide men (and women) with opportunities to meet (Russian women and men)."
- Andrew Gordon
- Will we face up to the devastating effects of unmet relationship needs?
-President Bill Clinton
Almost a very real casualty of an emotionally demeaning marriage ending in divorce, a very wonderful, caring and giving young man attempts suicide, not knowing where else to turn.
He subsequently joins Video Introductions and develops hope and a different relationship approach through use of Video Introductions program, including active participation in the free singles support group led by Norman Mickey. As a result, his self esteem and dating and relationship skills are enhanced. He realizes the rewards of his venture on Valentine's day with a new outlook on life and a level headed, attractive bride met through Video Introductions.
-A Marriage That Almost Wasn't
February 14, 2000
The Bush administration seeks Congressional funding for marital assistance services for single welfare recipients. A candidate for California Governor runs on a singles platform in 2003 and a Video Introductions member is also a candidate. Full-length, good quality video interviews are available on Video Introductions website.Together dating emerges from bankruptcy as The Right One/Together Dating and is back to the same old high pressure sales tactics, false promises, consumer complaints, high priced memberships and is rewarded with millions of dollars in fast paced annual revenue growth.
"Norm Mickey, a former social worker, is scrupulously honest in facilitating introductions and operates his business with the highest of integrity. If you are serious about finding a partner, consider Video Introductions."
"The Edge - Knew Radio"
Deceptive, harmful and illegal practices continue to surface in the dating industry. A class action lawsuit is filed against True.com dating site for automatically renewing subscribers' memberships without their permission and sending e-mails to former subscribers saying that current subscribers (alleged to be fraudulent or non existent) are interested in contacting them, in order to trick them into renewing their subscription. Yahoo! Personals admits no guilt but settles a class action lawsuit for using fake profiles of members on its site and reimburses 2004-2007 users a monetary award. Kansas Attorney General wins a settlement against Great Expectations in which they admit misrepresenting the number of members, falsely promising dates with certain kinds of people and falsely claiming they did background checks on members. Arizona Attorney General files a suit against Great Expectations for coercive sales practices and deceptive practices. Pennsylvania Attorney General files a civil lawsuit against Great Expectations for falsely inflating the number of singles available for dating in its network, misrepresenting the success rate, the costs and other key elements of its dating services, and its membership in the Better Business Bureau. Several California Great Expectations' offices are sued for contract violations of not honoring 3 day cancellation requests, billing members for a longer period than California law allows, misrepresenting the size and composition of the membership, and misrepresenting and manipulating the cost of membership. Under mounting criticism and numerous complaints, eHarmony finally discloses some controversial reasons for the mysterious and questionable rejection of certain relationship applicants.
-Some of the allegations in Wong vs True Beginnings dba True.com
"Severely depressed (one of the previously undisclosed reasons for rejection by eHarmony). A personalized, individual assessment should be made by a licensed professional to make this diagnosis correctly. Shame on eHarmony for their cursory, flawed assessments! Most people experience depression at some point in their lives. Many wonderful persons who enrich other persons' lives have bouts of depression...if eHarmony is truly in the business of helping singles (who already have a higher incidence of suicide than marrieds) shouldn't they find a better way to communicate with vulnerable, sensitive people who are simply trying to reach out?...Are there other criteria for rejection that eHarmony isn't telling us about?"
"Internet Dating & Hidden Agendas"
-Open Exchange Magazine
"Attorney General Terry Goddard (of Arizona)... accused Great Expectations, of coercive sales practices and deceptive practices. The Attorney General's office alleged that Great Expectations:
- Misrepresented to consumers the overall number of participating members and members in certain age groups.
- Told consumers that two to three marriages occurred among members every month when it had no credible basis for such statements.
- Misrepresented to consumers that it had conducted a criminal background check on all of its members.
- Used high-pressure sales tactics.
- Showed potential new members written profiles and photographs of people they were not available for dating."
In 2008 Video Introductions gave members the ability to morph their photo with other members to see what a future child might look like with another member (Baby Creations), and also to see their own age advanced photo (Age Progression), plus accompanying information and advice to enable members to consider, discuss and better understand important relationship issues related to attraction, having children and aging.. A display of this process was shown on the website which also served to draw attention to the more important purpose of Baby Creations and Age Progression - a means we use to dramatically illustrate and communicate the serious issues to consider surrounding having children and aging.
The Second Decade of the New Millennium
Alarming and important dating site information
- Greed, hype, trickery, fraud and dating scams abound
In Dec. 2010, a lawsuit against Match.com alleges that bogus romantic come-ons by phony or inactive members are used to get subscribers to renew.
In Feb. 2011, a class action lawsuit is filed claiming that Match.com is “little more than a scheme” to bilk consumers and alleging “Match overbills and makes unauthorized charges to the debit and credit cards of members and former members” and that more than 60% of the profiles are “either inactive former users, or fake or fraudulently posted by scammers and others.”
In Feb. 2011 Match’s parent company buys and gains control of competitor OkCupid for $50 million in cash plus millions more in future earn-outs (OkCupid had previously been a critic of Match.com). Subsequently in Oct. 2012 a co-founder of OkCupid is appointed to a newly created position of CEO of Match Inc.
In June 2011, another class action suit is filed against Match.com listing exploitative practices to entice payment from subscribers to try to meet non subscribers and bogus members (alleged to be more than 90% of advertised members) who are deceptively made to appear to be available and able to respond.
In Sept. 2011 another suit is filed by a married woman who was never a member and shocked to learn that her photo was being depicted as a member, and also being portrayed in an ad on Facebook as someone prospective members might meet on Match.com.
In Feb. 2012 a lawsuit is filed against True.com and Plenty of Fish by the parents of a dead soldier for using the photo of their handsome, uniformed son in ads like “Military Man Searching for Love”. Clicking on a “Soldiers Want You” ad placed by True.com on the Plenty of Fish website, directed interested persons to the True.com website. The photo used in the ad was taken just days before their son’s military death in Iraq in 2007 and he was engaged at that time. Moreover the photo is the same photo that the parents used on the family’s Unsung Hero Fund site after his death – a site for the purpose of providing supplies to troops in war zones.
In April 2012 the Video Introductions website is temporarily disconnected from the internet to guard against online intrusion. Video Introductions continues office operations without a website. Norman Mickey focuses attention on exposing the unethical practices of the dating industry and its dangers as part of his forthcoming book to identify and remedy relationship problems – in which the dating industry is used as an example of what’s wrong in America and our relationships with each other and the rest of the world.
In Aug. 2012 True.com files bankruptcy owing numerous creditors approximately $100 million.
In Oct. 2012, a class action lawsuit is filed against ChristianMingle.com by spam recipients in California. Some of the emails for ChristianMingle.com and also from BlackSingles.com list a woman's name as the sender (Spark Networks owns both of these dating sites and others). Other e-mails use generic names like "Christian Dating," "Christian Dating Partner," or "Christian Singles" that misrepresent the advertiser. Many of the spam emails are sent using domain names that make it difficult to determine their origin. Other domain names are registered to fake companies or individuals with bogus addresses. This spam represents violations of Business & Professions Code Section 17529.5. Note: In 2012 TV ads, Christian Mingle boasts 2 million new members have joined over the past year. They state “joining is easy and free” to “find God’s match for you”. Like most other “free” dating site come-ons, actually meeting someone may not be easy or free, as they get a foot in the door and a hand on your pocketbook by failing to mention that there’s an upgraded membership fee related to mutual communication attempts between members.
It also may not be safe, as reported in Feb. 2013, a member using a fake name is arrested for rape and burglary of a woman after meeting via Christian Mingle. It later emerges the man is also suspected of a 2009 rape of a woman he met on Match.com with another alias. Christian Mingle didn’t offer background checks (nor do most other sites).
In Nov. 2012, with a slow down in new members, retention rates and amount of time spent on eHarmony’s site, a large number of eHarmony’s workforce lose their jobs and the Board of Directors is cut from 9 to 2 members. In 2013 Dating Critic Fernando Ardenghi calls eHarmony “a HOAX” and states “eHarmony’s Team should be in jail for fraud.”
In 2012, Ashley Madison which openly encourages adultery with slogans like “Life is short”, “Have an affair” and boasts that it is “the most recognized name in infidelity” with claims of tens of millions of clients worldwide - is sued along with along with its Canadian corporate parent, Avid Dating Life Inc. by a North Carolina man for the loss of his wife to another man on the basis of the alienation of affection/criminal conversation laws in effect in some states.
In 2012, the FBI and the Internet Crime Compliance center issues warning alerts about dating scams. Dating extortion scams and Ransomware are exposed.
In Jan. 2013 Match.com is sued for $10 million by a woman who barely escaped death in 2010 after being stabbed 10 times by a man she met on Match.com. In custody he admits killing a woman who he also met on Match.com in 2011.
In Feb. 2013 on the Dr. Phil Show, two women are featured, romantically duped for $187,400 and $30,000 respectively by Nigerians posing on Match.com as European businessmen.
In Nov. 2013, the Wisconsin Attorney General announces a $500,000 settlement in a 2009 lawsuit against Great Expectations to resolve allegations that they misled consumers into signing up and paying for dating service contracts. In addition to false claims made and high pressure sales tactics, Great Expectations used website names that appeared to contact singles in particular Milwaukee communities which didn’t indicate any connection with Great Expectations, but consumers who completed online surveys were then called by Great Expectations telemarketers.
In Nov. 2013, a class action federal lawsuit is filed against Match.com for $1.5 billion alleging that it is engaging in “one the biggest conspiracies ever executed on the internet” by creating bogus profiles and allowing bogus profiles on its sites. Thousands “if not millions” of profiles are alleged to be bogus.
In Dec. 2013, an Illinois judge rejects a motion to dismiss a 2011 lawsuit against Match.com made by a user who was a victim of criminal sexual abuse and unlawful restraint by a member - an accused rapist who wasn’t removed from their site, even though another Match user previously informed them that he had raped her two years earlier.
In Feb. 2014 a woman of Playboy and X-rated fame, joins an amended class action lawsuit against Match.com accusing them and their affiliated web sites of posting tens of thousands of fake dating profiles that rely on unsanctioned photos to attract paying members and boost profits. She claims she never joined the dating sites, and that her copyrighted photos have been used without her consent in thousands of fraudulent profiles posted on Match.com and other sites run by co-defendant parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp.
In March 2014, OkCupid is sued by a man who was swindled out of $70,000 by a man he met on their site. The suit claims that the site and its parent company IAC failed to provide “even minimal screening of its subscribers and therefore deceptively creating the impression that their dating service was safe.”
In March 2014, it was reported that the parent company of Ashley Madison was countersuing a former employee in order to get back confidential documents and work product and training materials, including copies of alleged fake profiles and documents that she turned over to her lawyer in a lawsuit against Ashley Madison, to show that she was required to create “fake female profiles” for Ashley Madison to “entice paying heterosexual members to join and spend money on the website”. This former employee stated that she was asked to type up 1000 fake profiles of sexy women for Ashley Madison in a short period of time which brought about medical problems. She was led to believe that the creation of fake profiles was normal practice in the industry and the suit states that the profiles "do not belong to
any genuine members of Ashley Madison
— or any real human beings at all."
Sorry Charlie, I’m not really a person after all.
We stole your money and your heart and we’re proud of it.
- Just look at how big, famous and rich we’ve become off of persons like you.
Ashley Madison's revenue grew from $100 million in 2012 to $125 million and a profit of $40 million in 2013. In Japan - their fastest growing market - they claim taking just 8 months to add 1 million members. On the other hand Ashley Madison had to close its office in Ireland despite a claim of accumulating more than 125,000 potential adulterers on the site after more than 2 years. Ashley Madison said they couldn’t find enough Irish staff to operate an office there due to moral and religious beliefs of the Irish. Ashley Madison was also turned down on moral grounds by the first law firm they approached about doing business there (Thank goodness that the Irish took a stand against working for or with a firm that entices people to break their marital vows. Perhaps others will follow their lead and refuse to work for or with firms that ask them to do things that violate their moral or ethical beliefs).
In March 2014, the 60 Minutes TV program segment, The Data Brokers, revealed that the information you share about yourself with firms like OkCupid, including your answers to their matching questionnaire is sold to numerous other companies or agencies who may use it for many other purposes ranging from marketing to creating dossiers on you. This information can then be used for such things as identifying you as a prospective buyer for products or services or used by a prospective employer to evaluate you for employment. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee investigating these issues refers to such practices as “the dark side of American life”
In May 2014 It’s Just Lunch was ordered by a federal judge to face a nationwide class action lawsuit that clients were defrauded including use of a “uniform script to inform prospective customers during initial interviews that IJL already had at least two matches in mind for those customers' first dates regardless of whether or not that was true". The complaint said that the company would charge $1,000 or more per person, per year for services it did not deliver.
In July 2014 The Guardian reported that the dating app Tinder owned by Interactive Corporation is rife with spam bots and fake profiles that attempt to engage people in conversation and then direct them to webcam sites, mobile games and adult sites. The report states the overwhelming majority of Tinder spam is comprised of fake prostitution profiles.
In July 2014 OkCupid received criticism from Online Dating Magazine and others. The magazine published an article critical of the fact that OK Cupid lied to their users who were not informed that they were the subjects of secret OkCupid experiments. In one of the experiments, pairs of OkCupid users were told that they were 90% compatible when OkCupid’s testing process rated them as only 30% compatible. As a result, users trusted OkCupid’s rating and sent more initial messages to these persons than they would have otherwise. A quote from the July 2014 post on the OkCupid blog by OkCupid’s co-founder and President, Christian Rudder: “we took pairs of bad matches (actual 30% match) and told them they were exceptionally good for each other (displaying a 90% match.) Not surprisingly, the users sent more first messages when we said they were compatible.” Moreover Rudder frankly admitted “Ok Cupid doesn’t really know what it is doing” and added “Neither does any other website”. In this candid promotional post on the blog he also wrote “Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work” citing Facebook altering their users’ news feeds.
More of the industry’s dark underbelly was revealed with these admissions. However using the excuse that others also do it - doesn’t make it right. In addition to conducting secret experiments without consideration to negative effects for their users, it might be said that OkCupid may have taken another step into the dirty tricks industry when it sold out to the competitor they had previously criticized for their tactics. OkCupid was effectively silenced from voicing critical remarks about Match.com when they agreed to sell-out to Match (IAC - Match’s parent company) in 2011 for $50 million cash plus millions more in future earn-outs, followed by OkCupid’s other co-founder (Sam Yagan) being made CEO of Match in 2012.
See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil about us
Also, Online Dating Magazine raised the question of liability for a firm which purposely falsifies information to their users, especially if harmful consequences should result to a user who trusts false matching information deliberately provided by a site.
Just trust us. You are “exceptionally good for each other”.
(However “we don’t really know what we’re doing”).
In August 2014 it was reported that Ashley Madison sued the government of South Korea for loss of revenue and uncompetitive conduct after South Korea (where adultery was illegal) blocked the Ashley Madison site on the basis that it contributes to immorality. Incredulously, Ashley Madison claimed it does not aid or abet any illegal activity and there is no adultery that happens on Ashley Madison because it’s just a publication (despite its unmistakable purpose and registered advertising slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”).
In August 2014 eHarmony’s founder/CEO issued an internal memo stating that a turnaround took place after July 23, 2012 when the company was one day away from being put up for sale to the highest bidder. Using $153.2 million dollars of a “hard won stash of capital” he said eHarmony bought all of the class B shares, cut staff and “cleaned up our house” by appointing a new executive management team to avoid exposing the management and ownership ever again “to persons who know almost nothing about relationships”. He said the company had focused on “a five-year turnaround that will surely astound the world of relational gurus and business school leaders”. He said the company “totally lost its way” after 2009. He said they would relocate their headquarters to a crème de la crème Los Angeles business district in a prestigious multi-story building with their name atop, and said that eHarmony “is determined not to be stopped any longer in its push to be the most prolific relationship company in the history of the human race” with the belief that it can become “one of the most important companies in the history of the world.”
In August 2014 the Better Business Bureau’s national advertising division tells eHarmony that it should stop advertising that it has been responsible for more marriages than any other dating site and recommends that eHarmony stop boasting they have the most satisfying and enduring marriages. In 2016 Neil Warren’s net worth is estimated to be $500 million. In July 2016 he steps down from duties as CEO but continues to retain control as Chairman of the Board.
In September 2014 a class action lawsuit is filed against It's Just Lunch! as "a massive scheme to defraud single professionals," and its services "are not only grossly deficient and substandard in almost every aspect”, but are simply not what the company promised. The lawsuit asserts that IJL makes random matches and "almost completely ignores the customer's stated preferences. Rather, the company forces its IJL franchises to make matches which are driven entirely by monthly quota requirements, which wholly and categorically disregard the customer's stated interests and preferences." In addition to many other misrepresentations, the number of persons in the customer’s vicinity and the proportion of men to women are misrepresented according to the suit.
In October 2014 four men are sentenced to prison for using a fake profile on Match.com to swindle £220,000 from female members by use of romantic messages, emails and texts plus requests for fees to release a fake inheritance.
In October 2014 UK based online site JDI Dating was fined $616,165 by the US Federal Trade Commission for using fake profiles and also using fake communication to make their users think they were hearing from persons who were interested in them so that they could trick them into upgrading to paid memberships. Subscriptions were also automatically renewed without users consent. The settlement requires JDI to abide by the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act which requires that members must consent to credit card charges and understand what they will be charged for and understand the methods of cancellation. JDI must also disclose to users that they will receive communications from virtual profiles. The settlement requires that they refrain from misrepresenting their product, service refund and cancellation policies and requires them to make cancellations easy. It also prohibits them from selling the databases of members from their 18 differently named dating sites.
In November 2014 a San Diego, CA man is sentenced to 37 years to life in prison for raping women he met on Christian Mingle and Match.com in 2009 and 2012.
In November 2014 it was reported that Successful Match, the parent company of Positive Singles (a dating site for persons with Sexually Transmitted Diseases) was ordered to pay $16.5 million to the plaintiff for misleading him (as well as other Positive Singles members) about the privacy of their images and information when they joined. Even though members were promised full confidentiality, their images and other information were displayed on other Successful Match subsidiary sites. Successful Match’s network of sites was reported to have a total 732,000 users. Moreover the website stated that it was a "warmhearted and exclusive community for singles and friends with STDs" that "cares about your privacy more than other sites."
In December 2014, while retaining Chairmanship, Greg Blatt also became the CEO of Match Group, replacing Sam Yagan as CEO, and Yagan (OkCupid’s co-founder) was made Vice Chairman after a Nov. 2015 Match Group IPO. Reports indicate that Greg Blatt received a salary of a million dollars a year in 2012, and 2013 and $500,000 in 2014 and total remuneration with stock awards for 2012, 2013 and 2014 of $25 million. Reports indicate Sam Yagan received a salary of $500,000 in 2014 with total remuneration for 2012, 2013 and 2014 of $12.77 million.
In March 2015 a Georgia man who had hundreds of interactions with women on the OkCupid app while using an alias was charged with raping and sodomizing a female member.
In April 2015 a class action suit was filed against Tinder for charging men and users over the age of 30 a higher fee for premium service on its mobile dating app (age and gender discrimination) and collecting recurring, automatic renewal fees without authorization in violation of California law (In 2014 Match Group chairman, Greg Blatt, told investors the company would soon find a way to benefit from the Tinder’s popularity). In May 2015 it was reported that research by GlobalWebIndex showed that that 30% of Tinder users are married and 12 % are in a relationship.
In May 2015 in was reported that the Cyberspace Administration of China shut down 128 dating sites in the past 3 months which lacked legal registration, were illegally leaking user information, allowed fraud and obscene content, or were connected with prostitution. More than 20 dating websites were required to make changes or be suspended.
In June 2015 the problem of dating sites using fake member profiles to acquire members and revenue was further brought to light when it was revealed that many popular dating sites in Japan in reality had only one female member and made more than £34 million since 2004 from 2.7 million male members unknowingly duped into contrived online conversations with male employees posing as women. Eight dating site executives were arrested for the deception. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3116784/Dating-site-2-7-million-members-one-woman-Bosses-online-scam-arrested-Japan.html#ixzz3d90K9v9h
Note: Unlike Japan, in the U.S. no dating site executives have ever been arrested here for the numerous deceptive dating site practices and the large sums of money they have derived from these exploitative practices (just like banking industry executives who scammed the public and likewise avoided prosecution after the 2008 recession).
In July 2015 the East Bay Times ran a story (updated in August 2016) entitled Fraudsters targeting senior citizens looking for love online. The article states that senior citizens are especially vulnerable to Internet dating scam artists because, like a senior citizen $300,000 victim from Virginia, they are often widowed and lonely. The Virginia victim also met her scammer on the dating website Match.com but warned that all dating websites are potential playgrounds for people trying to trick others out of their money
In July 2015 Ashley Madison was told to shut down its website due to its promotion of adultery or else hackers calling themselves the Impact Group would expose their users. In August the Impact Team released the entire Ashley Madison client list – more than 30 million members worldwide (84% male with affair-seeking females a rarity). Many of the profiles were fake and internal emails revealed that the company was actively paying people to create fake profiles. There were also ashleymadison.com email addresses suggesting they’d been generated by a bot. The hack exposure of user information led to ransom demands threatening to notify users’ wives of their Ashley Madison activities and letters were sent to wives of those who didn’t pay. Avid Life Media, the company that owns Ashley Madison, reported revenues of $115 million on a total company value of $1 billion in 2014.
In November 2015 Texas Attorney General sued Lone Star Introductions, Inc., also doing business as eLove Matchmaking based in Massachusetts, for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Policies Act and the Texas Internet Dating Safety Act. The suit alleged that the company made cold calls and used high pressure tactics to get users in Austin and San Antonio Texas to sign up for dating services ranging from $8,000 to $13,000 that they didn’t receive. Customers trying to cancel were subjected to harassment and threats in violation of debt collection regulations. The suit requires the company to shut down offices in San Antonio and Austin, pay $500,000 in civil penalties and $20,000 in customer restitution, and provide notification on its websites that it no longer provides dating services in Texas.
In December 2015 a class-action lawsuit was filed against Tinder (part of Match Group) for violating California’s Dating Service Act for failing to recognize the right to cancel Tinder without penalty or obligation within a 3 day period and not posting it in a conspicuous place on the Tinder agreement, plus not providing an address where a cancellation could be sent. It is also alleged that Tinder users who opted out after a 3 day cancellation period were not reimbursed on a pro-rata basis. Research of the plaintiff’s attorney indicated Tinder earns as much as $9 million a month from subscriptions.
In December 2015 OkCupid (part of Match Group) added a new setting which allowed users who are listed as “seeing someone,” “married,” or “in an open relationship” to link their profiles and search for other people to join their relationship. Company data revealed that 24 percent of its users are “seriously interested” in group sex and 42 percent would consider dating someone already involved in an open or polyamorous relationship. The number of people who said they’re solely committed to monogamy fell to only 44 percent of OkCupid’s users.
In February 2016 a law firm announced an ongoing investigation into whether Match Group violated securities laws by issuing misleading information to investors with regard to its Nov. 2015 IPO. Lawsuits were filed and there was a significant drop in price of its stock. After the stock rebounded upward past its IPO price in the months afterward, the Chief Financial Officer of Match Group and the Match Group Vice Chairman Sam Yagan, both sold a large number of their shares as disclosed in legal filings with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
In March 2016 a man was found guilty in England of raping several women that he met on Match.com between 2011 and 2014. He had contacted thousands of women on Match.com using fake profile names. Even though four of the victims complained to Match.com, it was revealed at the trial that the site administrators told one of the complainants that they couldn’t take action because this man had not sent abusive messages through the site. The judge urged a review of safety measures for online dating sites.
In June 2016 German offices of Lovoo dating app (with claims of 30 million users in 17 countries) were raided and the founders and several employees were arrested for commercial deception using fake profiles. Although users were lured in by a free offer, the company charged for extras which gave Lovoo an extra million Euros a year in profit.
In August 2016 a European Union lawmaker called for an investigation into Tinder (owned by Match Group), because it uses personal data of the user without explicit consent. He stated "Once you subscribe, the company can do whatever it wants with your data. It can show them, distribute them to whomever or even modify them.” This includes reuse of users’ photos even after deactivation. It was also stated that that companies often sell users' data to third parties without consumers being aware or having explicitly consented to it. Dating app Happn was also accused of violating EU data protection rules. Heavy sanctions against companies that impose "abusive clauses" for the use of their apps were called for.
In October 2016 Hinge announced a new monthly fee dating app and temporarily did away with its free swiping app in an attempt at a more successful dating effort. The dissatisfaction of using dating swipe apps was reported in a 2015 Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”. Hinge frankly confronted the gloomy statistics of finding a decent relationship on swipe apps based on their user data and stated that an August 2016 survey of their swipe app users showed “only 1 in 500 swipes on Hinge turn into phone numbers exchanged”. They also cited the low percentage of Hinge users who had ever “found a long-term relationship on any swiping app”. Hinge also stated “The most popular swiping app boasts that users login on average 11 times per day spending up to 90 minutes per day swiping, and have accumulated on average over 200 matches. However, for the vast majority of users this has led to exactly zero relationships.”
In December 2016 Ashley Madison reached a $1,657,000 settlement with the FTC as restitution for its practices.
In March 2017 a 58 year old grandmother in Troy Michigan was scammed on the Match.com dating site by an imaginary person with a fake profile on the site. She was bilked out of $703,000 dollars
In April 2017 Grindr was sued by a New York man who states that his ex-lover who he met on Grindr used his photo to create fake profiles and impersonate him on gay apps to entice uninvited men to come to his home and workplace – over a thousand men, up to 16 strangers a day – who were told not to be dissuaded if he’s resistant because he wants to experience a rape fantasy. He stated that he made 50 reports to Grindr and 14 to police to no avail.
In April 2017, it was reported that Match Group was sued for enticing customers to pay a premium access fee in order to contact OKCupid’s “A-List” users who they claimed “liked” them — only to find out “that most if not all of the users who like them have inactive accounts or “dead” accounts.” Upon uploading an OkCupid profile, an Illinois man immediately received a message through the service’s smartphone app, which stated that numerous other users — up to 25 — liked his profile and offering to reveal their identities to him for a fee. Also Match Group did not inform customers of their Illinois dating service rights to cancel their contract within seven days for a full refund. Moreover, this premium access is sold as an indefinite contract — automatically renewing unless the customer cancels — which violates the initial two-year limit on such contracts.
In April 2017 a Texas Better Business Bureau reported that Match.com had the second most unanswered complaints out of 50 million businesses - in addition to a long time “F” rating with the BBB. It was stated that some of the complaints had been answered but there was no evidence that the pattern of those complaints had been addressed. It was reported that many of the complaints have been about Match’s auto-billing charges - subscribers think that joining is just a one time fee rather than committing to ongoing charges ‘buried really deep down, three or four pages deep in the box that you are checking to agree,". Other complaints have been about fake profiles. There are also complaints about catfishing scams and financial victims. The Wichita Falls, Texas BBB noted Match victims of scams in their area including a Match subscriber taken for $200,000. newschannel6now.com
In July 2017 Ruby Life, Inc. formerly Avid Life Media - the parent company of Ashley Madison agreed to an $11.2 million class action lawsuit settlement pending court approval. The settlement would provide a refund of up to $500 to members who submit a valid claim proving they spent money to chat with Ashley Madison "engagers." As many as 70,000 engagers were actually only bots of fake female profiles that would chat with men on the site, which the men could read only if they signed up for a paid account. This trick accounted for 59 percent of member conversions to paid accounts. Victims of identity theft resulting from the 2015 website breach that exposed personal details of members could get up to $2,000 to recover money lost because of that hack. Also members who purchased the $19 "Full Delete" feature which was supposed to have their data deleted from the site, could put in a claim to return the $19. With the resulting notoriety, Ashley Madison claimed 4 million new members in the 4 months after the 2015 hack. It should also be noted that Avid Life Media also arranged for a couple in a 2013 Toronto Life interview to falsely say they met on Avid Life’s sugar daddy site Established Men.
In a July 2017 broadcast, Silicon Valley Matchmakers was the subject of complaints made by more than 10 clients to NBC Bay Area News Responds, KNTV 11. Maria paid nearly $8000 and got “four bad dates” from matches that were “terrible fits”. However the report also states that persons shown as a happy couple on the Facebook page of the firm’s owner were instead stock photos used by their various affiliates. The firm which describes itself as a “personal and local dating service” is actually based in Oklahoma with branches in various states with various names. The report notes that “A testimonial from Blake, thanking Silicon Valley Matchmakers for introducing him to his soulmate Kristie, also appears on East Bay Matchmakers, and even on a website in Nevada, where Blake praises Las Vegas Matchmakers for introducing him to his soulmate Kristie. And a quick search of those pictures of happy couples reveals they’re stock photos.”
In August 2017 the NewYork Daily News reported that Kelleher International was sued by former QVC executive Darlene Daggett who paid $150,000 to introduce the 62-year-old woman to wealthy, eligible bachelors but instead was left traumatized by the matches. The lawsuit stated “Kelleher’s ‘highly screened’ matches for Daggett included men who were married, mentally unstable, physically ill, pathological liars, serial Lotharios, stalkers, convicted felons, unwilling or unable to travel and/or the subject of professional sanctions,”
In August 2017 a Sun Online investigation listed 4 dating apps having the highest rate of reports of various crimes in the UK: Plenty of Fish 56%, Tinder 26%, Grinder 10% and Match.com 7%. Crimes include Katie Locke who was murdered and her dead body abused on a first date by a man she met on Plenty of Fish. Grindr was used by a man to lure his victims who he drugged and raped – he killed 4 and attacked 7 others.
In January 2018 eHarmony was chastised for its deceptive advertising In a Jan. 2018 report in the Guardian, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said “there was no proof people were any more likely to meet partners through the eHarmony website than by other means, online or offline, such as social networking, at work, through friends or in a bar or club” and “the evidence provided by eHarmony did not demonstrate that their matching system offered users a significantly greater chance of finding lasting love than what could be achieved if they didn’t use the service, and the ASA concluded that the claim ‘scientifically proven matching system’ (being advertised) was misleading.”
In January 2018 eHarmony agreed to pay $2.2 million dollars in a Consumer Protection Lawsuit settlement after being sued for its practices of duping its customers into long-term commitments and illegal auto-renewal payments without the customer’s explicit consent, and eHarmony’s failure to explain the customer’s right to cancel. A consumer protection lawsuit was filed by the California counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Napa and Shasta and the city of Santa Monica for its automatic-charging practices. $1 million dollars of the settlement is a separate restitution settlement (averaging about $30 for each affected customer) for eligible recipients who were unknowingly enrolled into a subscription between March 10, 2012 and Dec, 16, 2016. eHarmony did not clearly and conspicuously explain the automatically charged subscription fee or provide the customer with their dating contract and did not explain the customers right to cancel as required by law in California. After eHarmony’s illegal money making practices were exposed with allegations of false advertising and violations of California dating service law in this California Consumer Protection lawsuit settlement, eHarmony incredulously ran TV ads declaring that it was “America’s #1 trusted dating site”.
In January 2018, the movie “Swiped/HookingUp/DigitalAge” took a hard look at how instant hookup, online dating has become a very troubling spectacle of damaging and dangerous, superficial sexual contacts, with a plentitude of negative repercussions and concerns.
Later in 2018, horror stories of persons who met through Tinder were reviewed by Jessika Miller on https://www.ranker.com/list/tinder-murder-stories/jessika-gilbert Some of these very disturbing Tinder tragedies:
Francia Ruth Ibarra met Emmanuel Delani Valdez Bocangegra through Tinder. After a December 3, 2016 meeting, Ibarra was missing. Bocangegra was later arrested in Mexico City for her murder. Her body was dissolved in hydrochloric acid and her bones were found on the balcony of his apartment.
Sydney Loofe of Lincoln, Nebraska met Bailey Boswell on Tinder, and they set up a date for November 15, 2017. The next day she was nowhere to be found. On December 5, 2017, her body was found dismembered several weeks later in a rural area.
In July 2018, Danueal Drayton was arrested for raping and killing Samantha Stewart, a nurse from Queens, NY, who he matched with on Tinder. Moreover, a month prior to the alleged murder, New York detectives were already looking into a Brooklyn woman's report that he raped and choked her after a Tinder date. He also confessed to killing as many as six additional victims.
In March 2018, alleging it is a scheme to defraud single professionals, It’s Just Lunch was sued for “malicious, fraudulent and oppressive” acts by a man who paid $9,500 for their “elite service” and experienced dates with women he was “expertly matched” with who knew very little about him and were age inappropriate, and with an “obvious disregard for his expressed criteria”
In May 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed against MatchGroup for violations of both the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Illinois Dating Referral Services Act. The plaintiff alleged that well over half of the site profiles are fake or fraudulent and Match.com either participates in their creation and/or makes no effort to vet, police or remove them. It was alleged that Match.com improperly profits by relying on the inflated number of reported members in its marketing campaigns to lure new members and their associated subscription fees. The plaintiff contended he experienced duplicate, false profiles who were not in fact members of the site and he was misled into believing that all users were actual people with whom he could interact.
In October 2018, the City of Santa Monica, CA reported that Spark Networks USA, LLC, the parent company of niche dating sites Jdate and Christian Mingle, will pay $500,000 in penalties and up to $985,000 in restitution to customers whose subscriptions automatically renewed or whose refunds were denied when they requested them, and has agreed to change its website and sales practices to better protect California consumers as part of a final court judgment. Spark's dating sites were automatically renewing customer payments, without their express prior consent as required by federal and state law, among other alleged violations of law.
In October 2018, eHarmony was purchased by a German firm for $85 million dollars.
In October 2018, Chinese police arrested 24 people at Lover Net for scamming users with female bots. It had 750,000 paying users and $140,000 dollars in daily revenue. Dating app Lover Net also spent heavily to boost its app store rankings. The CEO admitted there was almost no chance that a user could be matched with another real user, because the females on the site were only bots with fake profiles. This followed China police shutting down 21 companies in Jan. 2018 operating similar schemes with up to $144 million involved and a million users deceived.
In October 2018, a data privacy project called “The Dating Brokers: An autopsy of online love,” was reported by Tactical Tech and Joana Moll. It was revealed that in May 2017, Joana Moll, the author of the report along with Tactical Tech, bought one million dating profiles from the data broker USDate for the price of $153.00. In another article in Motherboard, Joana Moll reported that the profiles came from numerous dating operations including a number of well known dating sites including Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish and OkCupid and many others: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/59vbp5/shady-data-brokers-are-selling-online-dating-profiles-by-the-millions. Although Match Group denied any association with USDate, official USDate “partners” consisting of many well known dating sites and their parent companies, including parent companies: IAC and Match Group were identified on the USDate site via links from the Tactical Tech article https://datadating.tacticaltech.org/viz.
Also a BBC investigation in 2013 revealed that Usdate was helping dating services stock user bases with fake profiles alongside real people. Bay area Daily Mail KRON TV reporter Ian Drury noted that the Usdate website boasted: ‘It has never been easier to buy dating profiles… stop waiting for new users to “trickle in” every day. Instead, become clever and populate your dating website with 1,000,000 new dating profiles and your business will soar.’ The BBC Panorama investigation was started after receiving complaints from customers who went onto sites as free users and received a lot of interest from potential dates, but after the free users were seduced into paid subscriptions in order to gain access to contact details, they discovered that interest in them rapidly tailed off. The BBC Panorama investigators bought the data of 10,000 people from Usdate. The Daily Mail reported that the details of real people are being used by internet dating firms without their permission to create fake profiles - even including email addresses of life peer, academics and BBC staff conducting the investigation, who said they had never used a dating website. People’s photographs were being used against a completely different set of personal details including using photos of movie stars Brad Pitt and Michael Caine to create bogus profiles.
Ryan Pitcher who worked for Global Personals, Britain’s third largest dating company, which runs more than 10,000 dating sites worldwide, said he ran a team who created fake profiles or ‘pseudos’ to con customers into thinking they were talking to other genuine online daters. ‘We’d steal someone’s identity through say MySpace or something, we’d take someone from a totally different country – Spain or wherever.” and ‘We’d take the person’s photos online and we’d start knocking out messages. It was all fake and under the pretence that it was real.” He added ‘If you didn’t have pseudo profiling and fake messaging you wouldn’t make any money.’ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2380535/Internet-dating-firms-entice-lonely-hearts-faked-profiles-based-real-people.html
Because a user agrees to legal language that gets them into many websites, their data is potentially up for sale through a market for dating profiles. The dating data purchased by Tactical Tech and Joana Moll included usernames, email addresses, gender, age, sexual orientation, interests, profession, as well as detailed physical and personality traits and 5 million photos. The report stated that exchanging and purchasing online dating profiles is common practice within the online dating industry. The report stated that the method is not only frequently used to populate new online dating sites when they first get started “But established dating sites are also continuously trading in profiles – in order to get new faces into their services and thus increase the matchmaking probabilities among their users (and get new paying subscribers).” It also stated that “purchasing this data exposed a vast network of companies that are capitalising on this information without the conscious consent of the users, whom ultimately are the ones being exploited. This project attempts to make parts of that network, and how it works, visible to everyone.
In September 2019 the FTC sued Match Group for using fake love interest ads to trick consumers into purchasing a Match.com subscription. Although Match allowed users to create free profiles, those who did were prohibited from responding to messages without upgrading to a paid subscription. According to the FTC’s complaint, Match sent emails to nonsubscribers stating that someone had expressed an interest in them. When nonsubscribers with free accounts received likes, favorites, emails, and instant messages on Match.com, they received emailed ads from Match encouraging them to subscribe to Match.com to view the identity of the sender and the content of the communication. For example Match’s “You caught his eye” notices came from accounts that the company had already flagged as likely to be fraudulent. In contrast, Match prevented existing subscribers from receiving email communications from a suspected fraudulent account. As many as 25 to 30 percent of Match.com members who register each day use Match.com to attempt to perpetrate scams, including romance scams, phishing schemes, fraudulent advertising, and extortion scams. According to the FTC complaint, in some months between 2013 and 2016, more than half of the instant messages and favorites that consumers received came from accounts identified as fraudulent. For example, according to the FTC’s complaint, from June 2016 to May 2018, Match’s statistics indicated that consumers purchased 499,691 subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving an advertisement touting a fraudulent communication.
The FTC also alleges Match deceptively induced consumers to subscribe to Match.com by promising them a free six-month subscription if they did not “meet someone special,” without adequately disclosing that consumers must meet numerous requirements before the company would honor the guarantee.
Specifically, the FTC alleges Match failed to disclose adequately that consumers must:
The FTC alleges consumers often were unaware they would need to comply with additional terms to receive the free six months Match promised. As a result, consumers were often billed for a six-month subscription to Match.com at the end of the initial six months, instead of receiving the free six months of service they expected.
Due to Match’s allegedly deceptive advertising, billing, and cancellation practices, consumers often disputed charges through their financial institutions. The complaint alleges that Match then banned these users from accessing the services they paid for.
Finally, the FTC alleged that Match violated the Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) by failing to provide a simple method for a consumer to stop recurring charges from being placed on their credit card, debit card, bank account, or other financial account. Each step of the online cancellation process—from the password entry to the retention offer to the final survey pages—confused and frustrated consumers and ultimately prevented many consumers from canceling their Match.com subscriptions, the FTC contends. The complaint states that Match’s own employees described the cancellation process as “hard to find, tedious, and confusing” and noted that “members often think they’ve cancelled when they have not and end up with unwanted renewals.”
Note: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest.
Doing business by means of false promises, bogus member information, misleading claims, outright lies, selling member data, sneaky auto-renewals, difficult or impossible cancellations, fake profiles, exaggerated membership and marriage figures, unrealistic expectations, unethical lures and tricking users in various other ways are major reasons for the “success” of the dating industry. A primary focus on marketing, sales and deception rather than helpful services, caring staff, and honest and safe results, allows well funded sites to become very large and seemingly legitimate rather quickly (until the truth about their operations might eventually become known). Lies created by a dating site and phony information permitted by, or entered about their users by the site itself, allows unethical sites to prosper and unsuspecting users to be victimized.
Unfortunately, dating firms with higher ethical standards that refuse to use these tactics are left to struggle against large profit-by-any-means competitors, who are able to squelch or buy out the competition, and do whatever they want as a result of the millions of dollars they unethically and deceptively take from unsuspecting users - while receiving the added benefit of attention and praise for their financial success.
In December 2019
Norman Mickey’s book
Are You In A Happy Relationship?
Dating Industry Exposé
is completed and awaiting publication.
“We’re Taking the Guesswork Out of Dating”®
Affordable and Caring
Serving Singles Ethically Since 1977