Romance scammers are targeting members of a New Zealand online dating service and its founder admits the website lacks the resources needed to fight back.
Twosome was launched on Valentine’s Day this year by internet entrepreneur Dylan Bland, who also founded the NZ Flatmates flatting website.
It now has more than 5000 active members, but unhappy customers have been contacting the Herald.
One, a 63-year-old woman who requested anonymity, said she had been targeted by scammers using fake profiles.
Such scams typically involve a request for money after an online relationship has been formed.
The woman said she had identified almost 70 fake profiles on Twosome by running the pictures through TinEye, a website that trawls the internet and identifies other sites where the same photograph has appeared.
One profile image of a middle-aged man had appeared on 37 other dating websites and romance scam warning sites.
The source said she had even found – living in West Auckland – a Twosome member who claimed to be a four-star United States military general.
The Herald found two fake profiles within minutes of logging on to Twosome yesterday and running the pictures through TinEye. A romance scam website revealed that a photograph of a porn actress had been used in one of the profiles.
The informant said she had not engaged with any of “the creeps” for long enough to be asked for money, but added she was concerned that other members may become victims.
“There are vulnerable, really naive ladies out there,” she said.
Mr Bland said Twosome received a “small handful” of messages about fake profiles every week and it was a problem all dating sites grappled with. “This particular issue has been a lot more difficult than I expected. It’s definitely a resource question at the moment and that’s a problem I have to solve.”
Mr Bland said he was working on an automatic system for vetting new users of the site. “We’re not aware of anyone having been scammed [on Twosome.”
Jon Duffy, head of trust and safety at Trade Me, which operates the FindSomeone dating website, said the company waged a constant battle against fake profiles and staff members vetted every new member of the dating service.
NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said larger dating sites had the resources required to discourage scammers.