If you get an email from Match.com claiming your dating profile “caught” someone’s interest, be on guard. In a new lawsuit, the FTC claims that Match.com has turned a blind eye to romance scammers in a bid to nab new subscribers.
According to the agency, Match.com convinced hundreds of thousands of consumers to subscribe to its service by sending email alerts that said their dating profile had attracted someone’s interest. The only problem? The mysterious someone was usually a scammer with a fake account—and Match.com was fully aware of it.
Allegedly, the dating website allows the email alerts to goad users into signing up for a paid account. “Put another way, Match allegedly used the substantial number of scammers on its site—a figure estimated to be as high as 25-30 percent of accounts—as a marketing opportunity to sell more subscriptions,” the FTC said in a Wednesday blog post.
In response, the FTC is suing Match.com to stop the alleged activities and pay civil penalties.
Online romance scammers have always been a scourge. As a result, dating websites typically have anti-fraud systems to identify and shut down the fake accounts. But according to the FTC, Match.com also took advantage of the scammers by letting suspected “fraud-flagged” accounts deliver email alerts to non-paying users. Paid subscribers, on the other hand, don’t get the email alerts until after a fraud review.
Anyone can create a free account on Match.com, but responding to messages requires a paid account. “Specifically, when nonsubscribers with free accounts received likes, favorites, emails, and instant messages on Match.com, they also 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,” the FTC said.
The practice of sending the email alerts was quite effective in attracting new subscribers. From June 2016 to May 2018, Match.com found that consumers purchased 499,691 subscriptions within 24 hours of receiving an email alert that originated from a fraudster, according to the FTC’s lawsuit.
“Many consumers responded in just the way the company intended, often paying more than $100 for a subscription in the hope of connecting with the people who had already ‘expressed interest’ in them,” the FTC added.
Match.com is owned by Match Group, which also runs dating platforms Tinder, OkCupid, and PlentyOfFish. In response, the company said the FTC’s lawsuit was based on “misrepresented internal emails” and “cherry-picked data” to make the outrageous claims.
“Fraud isn’t good for business. That’s why we fight it. We catch and neutralize 85 percent of potentially improper accounts in the first four hours, typically before they are even active on the site, and 96 percent of improper accounts within a day,” Match Group added.
The company plans on fighting the lawsuit, which was filed in a US district court in Texas. The FTC also alleges that Match.com deliberately created a difficult process for consumers to halt recurring charges on their accounts, and misrepresented how users could get a free six-month subscription on the platform, among other alleged illegal acts.