lf2

Lying, cheating and online dating

Online dating was the topic of a research report released last year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Here are some of the findings:

  • 10 million Internet-using adults are seeking romantic partners
  • 37 percent of them—3.7 million people—have gone to a dating website
  • 43 percent of online daters think the activity involves risk
  • 52 percent of online daters agree that a lot of people on the sites lie about their marital status

Online dating is big business. U.S. residents spent $469.5 million on online dating and personals in 2004, according to Wikipedia. So online dating sites don’t want their product to get a bad reputation—like they are full of cheaters. Most people looking for romance are not actively seeking liars and cheaters. (Even sociopaths—the most accomplished liars and cheaters—look for honest people, because we make such great victims.)

Is it True?

All problems are potential marketing opportunities. So to address the problem of lying and cheating online daters, True.com promises “safer, smarter, and more satisfying relationships.” How? Through “background screenings for felons and married people.”

The website states, “True screens against public records to check marital status.”

This claim appears to have gone unchallenged. The Washington Post wrote that, “True.com is the only major web firm that conducts criminal and marital background checks on all of its members.” The Wall Street Journal reported that True.com “requires users to undergo criminal background checks and also analyzes public records to try to ensure that no one on the site is already married and looking for a fling.”

In reality, it is impossible to find out if someone is married.

Only three states—Florida, Nevada and Texas—offer online databases of marriage records. The remaining 47 states all have their own laws about giving out marriage information. Sometimes you have to submit written requests. Sometimes you need to know the names of the bride and groom, and the date and and location of the marriage. Sometimes you need a court order. And no one has accessible divorce records.

So how does True.com verify that people are single? Lovefraud has twice sent inquiries to True.com asking that exact question. So far, no response.

Vague threats of prosecution

Here’s what else True.com says about keeping out married people on its page about “single verification:”

Representing yourself as single if you are married may constitute fraud and could subject you to civil and criminal penalties under U.S. federal and state law. For example, Title 18, Section 1343 of the U.S. Code provides for fines of up to $250,000 and jail sentences of up to five years for each offense. TRUE reserves the right to report violators to appropriate law enforcement authorities and seek prosecution or civil redress to the fullest extent of the law.

The law True.com cites refers to schemes to defraud or obtain money under false pretenses and specifically refers to interstate and international commerce.

True.com also says it will report married people to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Unfortunately, the IC3 doesn’t actually do anything except refer cases to law enforcement agencies.

So will any law enforcement agency criminally prosecute someone who lies about being married in order to get a date? Not likely.

Suing a felon

True.com did actually sue a guy—a convicted felon and registered sex offender—who tried to join the dating site. In a press release, the dating site touted the case as a “landmark civil prosecution victory.” Herb Vest, founder and CEO of True, said:

“From Day 1 when I founded this company, I made a solemn pledge to create a safer dating environment for our members and our industry. As part of this longstanding commitment, we continue to lead the industry by being the only site to conduct criminal background and marital screenings to help rid the site—and eventually the entire industry—of potentially dangerous individuals. I can’t guarantee that felons and marrieds cannot get on True, but I can guarantee they will be very, very sorry they did.”

Did True.com catch the guy through its screening process? Nope. According to the press release, another member of the dating site recognized the felon and notified True.com that he had joined.

And what was the result of the lawsuit? True.com got the guy to cancel his membership, promise not to join other online dating sites, do community service (a sex offender?) and pay unspecified monetary damages.

Push for legislation

Herb Vest, in the meantime, embarked on a campaign to get laws passed mandating dating sites that do not conduct background checks—like Match.com, Yahoo Personals, and all the rest—to make sure their members know it. According to Cnet News.com, the proposed legislation demanded a warning be placed atop every personal ad and e-mail: “WARNING: WE HAVE NOT CONDUCTED A FELONY-CONVICTION SEARCH OR FBI SEARCH ON THIS INDIVIDUAL.”

In 2005, Vest convinced legislators in five states—California, Texas, Virginia, Michigan and Illinois—to sponsor his legislation. It doesn’t appear to have passed anywhere.

Critics pointed out that it’s easy to avoid being snared by a background check—all a con has to do is use a fake name. Would a criminal think of that?

Millions of visitors

In the meantime, a lot of people seem to believe that True.com really is a safer dating website. According to Neilsen/Net Ratings for the week ending February 11, 2007, True.com had two million visitors—more than any other dating site.

True.com is not a cheap date. A one-month subscription is $49.99. Yahoo Personals—which had 1.9 million visitors for the week of February 11—costs $39.95 per month.

And apparently, once you sign up at True.com, it’s not easy to quit. A writer for PC World magazine recently detailed the trouble he experienced trying to cancel his True.com subscription. To make breaking up difficult, the True.com website used small print, grayed-out type and its terms of service agreement. Two months after the guy thought he quit, his credit card was still being billed.

The Online Dating Industry Journal has written several articles about True.com’s deceptive cancellation policy. Lovefraud, in fact, received a letter from a former True.com subscriber complaining about exactly the same thing.

Use extreme caution

A significant number of people who tell Lovefraud about their run-ins with sociopaths say that they met the individuals online.

Yes, it is possible to meet healthy, upstanding people online. But you must be aware of the vulnerabilities and risks. If you participate in online dating, use extreme caution.

For sociopaths, online dating sites offer:

  • Millions of lonely people who are looking for love and have credit cards
  • Pre-screened victims, who have already provided information about what they want to hear (“long walks in the woods,” “homemade spaghetti”)
  • Opportunities to work many potential targets at the same time

Here’s what you need to know: No matter what claims any website makes about safe dating, they will not stop a sociopath. Sociopaths approach online dating like sharks approach a feeding frenzy.

For more information, see Lovefraud’s pages on Internet threat and Online seduction.


Comment on this article

19 Comments on "Lying, cheating and online dating"

Notify of

A couple of months ago while browsing on yahoo personals, I came across my ex NP’s profile. Of course it was filled with so many lies. The photo was taken by me five years ago in our family room. It doesn’t even look like him anymore. I should add that this was the very first time I had even peeked on a dating site. While I did not fill out a profile, I filled in that I was a woman looking for man 45-55 years old. The first photo that came up was my ex!!! So, thank you for educating us on the dangers of web dating. My first peek and up comes a sociopath. You can be sure that I will never ever use the web in order to meet someone.

sweetcaroline, this article is about whether true.com’s statements about being safer have merit or not. Any venue by which you seek a mate will contain both good and evil people. The questions is whether true.com is giving people a false sense of security.

My daughter told me that her father, the p, was shopping on eharmony, so naturally I looked up his profile. It is a fine example of how the psychopath manipulates a person’s perceptions of him even before they meet him. He explains in his profile that he has a grown daughter but that she is so ‘very difficult’ ( this is untrue). I figure he wrote this in case women wonder why he doesn’t have much of a relationship with his only daughter. It’s her fault ,she’s difficult. What’s sad is that women will probably have a bad impression of his daughter and they won’t remember how they got the initial impression.

This is a GREAT article about the hazards of on-line dating! It is enough to “curl yer hair.” Thanks, Donna. I missed this one some how…but GREAT information and one that everyone should read BEFORE they sign up on line for a “date.”

There ARE good people on dating sites, but they end up mostly I think as VICTIMS for those who are NOT SO GOOD.

THANK you for such a WONDERFUL article!!!!

I met the soon-to-be-exspath online almost 15 years ago – this was long before Craig’s List, eHarmony, and all of these other dating sites. What I did not understand then was that people (just like TODAY) are able to present any persona that they want in an anonymous setting. There is no vocal, visual, or body language being exchanged (just like with text messaging), and people can be as vague as they want while they’re trolling for new source targets.

I have no interest in online dating, whatsoever, especially since the exspath used MY funds to place vile BDSM personal ads on YahooPersonals to locate playmates and BDSM parties.

Nope, nope, nope…..not online, and not even in “Real Life!” LMAO!!!

Brightest blessings!

Donna what a great article. I didn’t know about TRUE or any of those other sites.

The internet is fraught with fraud. Even websites like http://www.ancestry.com have sneaky, snarky policies, ridiculous pricing, and cancellation rules that make it impossible to quit. And try to complain? No customer service number, no investors or board members listed on line, no CEO name available. What bullshit.

For what it’s worth, in my state, I was able to go to the court house and ask for a copy of my spath’s divorce decree. They gave it to me for $2 (a copy fee). I didn’t misrepresent my identity. Also, when he got remarried, I requested a copy of the marriage certificate. Again, sent to me with no trouble or explanation.

I also did many background checks on my spath and his family members on http://www.intellius.com. I think it was about $10 per “search” but well worth it. I found phone numbers, family members, etc. It was a very important source of truth for me.

Donna, thank you

Athena

Dear Donna: WONDERFUL ARTICLE!!
Thank you so very much for putting it all together and saying it!

I hope your article will be in every single magazine across the planet!!!!! In this day and age of ‘online lives’, this caution so desperately needs to be heard.

Blessings to you Dear Lady ~ Dupey

Hopefully, everyone knows that most online dating sites do not screen people. You have to be very careful navigating these sites. I have used various dating sites off and on for several years since my last serious relationship. I have never met anyone who advertised himself other than what he was. Nor have I ever met one that I feared was a sociopath (though I did meet a few who had some issues). It was only recently that I chatted with one that had some red flags flying everywhere for spathdom. I thought I had deactivated my account, but this one guy’s message got through. He seemed decent and interesting enough. We emailed a few times and then had a phone conversation. He was serious and humorless on email. On the phone he sounded very strange. He had a strange accent but claimed he was from England. He was very slow and hypnotic in his speaking voice and kept asking me if I liked him. I kept replying, “How would I know? I don’t know you!” Then he talked about meeting up and asked if I would like to come to his house. I insisted that if we ever met (which would be unlikely) it would be at a public place. He acted offended and almost tried to make me feel guilty for being so guarded (biggest red flag). He seemed very stalkerish. He commented on how many times I looked at his profile during the week (so?) and kept trying to get me to talk about how I felt about him. I was very guarded and reserved as I usually am with men from the dating sites that I don’t know. He said he would call me the next day. I was relieved that he never called again. I’m sure he didn’t find me to be victim material.

Other than that, the biggest problem I have with men on the dating site is that they are just not very interesting or attractive. They seemed extraordinarily lonely and desperate. The other problem is that they are looking for instant relationships and project all their fantasies onto me. This is a HUGE turnoff for me.

Michael

I had to laugh. Very creative!

Athena

Michael,
That was funny, for sure, but let me express a different perspective which you might consider:

As much as it may seem that Mr. Douchebag “deserved” the treatment you gave him, part of our healing process here at LF is about NOT taking responsibility for the behavior of other people. That’s what spaths want us to do, they want us to care about their behavior. As Sam Vaknin replied when he was asked, “do narcissists have enemies?” He replied, “No, they only have supply.”

So you see, you became his supply when you supplied drama between him and his wife. Is that the role you want for yourself in life? other people’s supply?

Our healing process here, is about “step away from the drama.” Not getting reeled into it.

You know as well as I do that he didn’t change his ways or learn his lesson from what you did. His wife may or may not have left him – if she did, you might have saved her but then, she might have ended up in another bad relationshit.

You added to your karma when you got involved, but who is to say if it was good or bad karma.

Doing things to others that is hurtful to them because WE decide to become the judge and jury is neither funny nor productive in my opinion…it is simply drama rama.

Taking on the role of persecutor or dispenser of justice to people you don’t even know, apparently almost picked at random from the internet, I think smacks of vigilanteism….burning crosses on people’s lawns, etc.

Every man I met online was either terribly ‘asleep’ to himself and the world around him (walking wounded), or personality disordered.

One of them ended up being the spath that brought me untold grief, financial loss…the one I generally refer to here. Another I dated for a few months, and he was an angry ogre, who thought he was a spiritual teacher and should be obeyed by all.

One of them, who I communicated with (and saw 3 times) for a VERY short time, is STILL leaving me presents on my front porch, and sending me cards/gifts/pictures and little caring notes in the mail (no return address). I have had no contact with him. Told him I didn’t want to get more involved. (I was getting that creepy feeling, very early on). He moved to my city anyway.

And, get this, he was so emotionally devastated by my not wanting to be his girlfriend, that after talking with his friends about it, he told me they thought I was a ‘narcissistic sociopath’. THAT was when I told him I didn’t think we could even be friends.

My experience is that finding a real person, who is healthy, online, is about on par with winning the lottery.

I am still slightly embarrassed to admit to how many crazies I met, and even dated for a time, online!

Michael,
it’s about having boundaries.
Yours.
But anyway, it’s hard for me to see how you could miss my point and your response indicates that you are trying to obfuscate the issue, so I’m not going to pursue the matter because then I would be ignoring my own advice not to feel responsible for anyone else’s ignorance.

The information is out there for you to assimilate and use to your benefit. You said you came here to heal from your own issues, I extended some information. I’m not going to force it down your throat. Besides, I’m late for an appoinment! later.

Just knowing my ex was trolling Match.com while we were still married is enough to keep me OFF internet dating sites!

You know, there is a such thing as karma for people who are cheating on their spouses online and lying about it. There is no universal law that says the karma can’t be doled out by a friend of the aggrieved or by the aggrieved themselves if it is safe to do so. I wish I had more friends like this, honestly. I got a chuckle at Michael’s story – very clever.

I’ve had a few opportunities to dole out justice to a few liars and cheaters. I neither felt like I was instigating drama nor fanning the flames of anger. I felt like I was doing what needed to be done. A few of the stories are quite comical in retrospect, like Michael’s.

When I got conned in 2008 by the spath (the reason I found LF), I went NC immediately. But I had a few friends who watched out for me. When the spath appeared on his various reptile forums (where I met him), my friends outed him. It caused a lot of drama on the forums, but it drove him off the sites, never to return (knock on wood). I felt like I had a wall of protection around me via my online friends.

We should all have friends like this. Where I draw the line is when it involves physical violence or when it is potentially unsafe to the person exacting justice. But if it can be done safely and legally, I think it can be very empowering.

Michael D,
It looks to me you simply did your good deed for the day.

I remember reading the story of a woman whose husband was a liar and cheater. In the aftermath of their divorce, he got custody of the home. She found a diabolical way to get even. She sewed tiny shrimps into the hems of the curtains. Eventually the entire house started stinking, and he couldn’t figure out why. He repainted it, bleached the floors, and still the house stank. He ended up taking a big reduction in price when he sold it due to the smell. Diabolical!

You know, we say we should leave it up to God to exact justice on these people. But doesn’t God have agents who are human beings? People who are kind and good don’t as a rule have people going around sewing shrimps into their curtains.

Ha ha ha!! who thinks up this stuff???

Athena, I don’t know but I wish it could have been me about 12 years ago.

Send this to a friend