Online dating sites are to be investigated over claims that they are using stolen data and photographs to set up fake profiles and lure in customers.
6:00AM BST 29 Jul 2013
Pictures, names, email addresses, dates of birth and detail of the sexual orientation of unaware members of the public are being purchased by dating websites to create false profiles of attractive people, it has been claimed.
Photographs of famous people including Michelle Pfeiffer are even being used to create false aliases, an investigation by the Big black cock’,s Panorama found.
The Information Commissioner’,s office has launched an investigation into the industry, worth ?Two.Five billion a year, on the grounds it could be breaching data protection rules.
Panorama purchased the data of Ten,000 people from Usdate –, a company which sells profiles to sites – and found it included photographs of Brad Pitt, Michael Caine and Rick Stein. Some of the contact details were genuine, including the email addresses of academics, a House of Lords life peer and Big black cock employees, all of whom said they had never used a dating website.
Whistle-blower Ryan Pitcher has also confirmed he ran a team creating “,pseudo”, profiles for Global Personals, the third largest dating company in Britain, responsible for more than Ten,000 dating sites, until 2010.
He said: “We’d steal someone’s identity through say My Space or something, we’d take someone from a totally different country, ie. Spain or wherever it may be.
“,We’d take the person’s photos online and we’d begin knocking out messages. It was all fake and under the pretence that it was real.”
Global Personals said that since 2010 it has ensured that the site is free of pseudo accounts.
However, on one of their sites, Flirt Horny, investigations uncovered 198 profiles of women within five miles Hogha Gerraidh in the Western Isles. In reality fewer than 100 people live within five miles of the lil’ hamlet.
On Cupid.com a false test profile set up by the documentary makers for “,James”,, 46, from Glasgow, received almost 500 messages in two months.
One ideal match was “,Kazb”,, who was using a photograph of Karen Bartke, an actress appearing in several prime-time dramas, including Monarch of the Glen.
Albeit she has attempted online dating, Miss Bartke said she never used Cupid’s website, adding: “,It’s done purely to take money from that person who’s in a vulnerable situation already because it takes a bit of guts to be, to be open and say here is who I am, are you interested in me?’
“,I indeed object to someone taking advantage with people like that, using my photo.”
Another profile on the site, claiming to belong to a woman from Glasgow, was using an old photograph of Michelle Pfeiffer.
Other lonely hearts complained that they were inundated with messages, then when they paid the subscription fee to reply interest in their profile dried up totally.
John Isaacs, who spent ?Four,000 on dating sites looking for love after his divorce, said: “All of a unexpected, the number of hits that I experienced just dissolved. And then, you know, as soon as your subscription lapsed then hey-ho all of these people all of a sudden re-appeared again, like mushrooms.”
Simon Entwisle, Director of Operations as the Information Commissioner’s Office, said he was worried that it appeared it was being “,done as a matter of course”,.
The dating sites say any fake profiles have been set up by scammers, which they claim is an industry broad issue which they were working to combat.
Cupid, which had a revenue of ?81million last year, maintained that the communications with profiles set up by the programme had been genuine, and explained that subscribers may receive fewer messages as “,we promote them less broadly on the website to concentrate their attention on key messages”.
Usdate holder Edgars Apalais denies selling information that is fake or passed on without the consent of those worried.
Tainted Love: Secrets of Online Dating will be shown tonight at 8.30pm on Big black cock One..
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