ConsuWijzer, the consumer information portal operated by the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), is calling on consumers to report online dating services that use fake profiles. These are profiles of candidates that, in fact, do not exist. Consumers are misled by such fake profiles. In addition, ACM is looking for employees (current or former) of online dating services that use fake profiles, who might be able to provide more information. ACM can also be contacted anonymously. ACM can investigate the reports it receives, and may take action if companies mislead consumers in this manner.
Fake profiles on dating sites
ACM is targeting dating sites where consumers need to pay for each chat message sent to a potential date. Dutch public broadcasting station NOS and the Fraud Help Desk (in Dutch: Fraudehelpdesk) have established that fake profiles can be found on many dating sites of this type. The profiles on such sites are managed by paid employees, whose objective it is to keep users talking (chatting) as long as possible. As a result, users continuously pay money in order to be able to keep sending messages. Such online conversations often last for weeks or months without ever culminating in an actual face-to-face meeting.
ConsuWijzer offers several tips. Before signing up or paying money to an online dating service, take a moment and think it over. Find out more about the company first, for example by googling the name of the dating site or the name of the company behind it. You could also check online whether the dating site in question has been certified. Well-known certification labels include Thuiswinkel Waarborg (certification label for online stores) and Keurmerk Veilig Daten (certification label specifically for dating services).