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FTC sues Match.com owner for tricking users with fake connections

That love match may have been a scam

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Match Group, the company behind most of the major online dating sites, has been accused of luring people into paying for a subscription to its site with profiles that they knew may be fake. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint this week against the parent of Tinder, OKCupid, Match.com, PlentyofFish and other dating sites saying they lured people to sign up — and also made it difficult to quit.

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The complaint filed by the FTC says that Match Group's sites would send emails to people who had signed up to create a free profile, but had not upgraded their accounts to paid profiles — which would allow them to see the person who had left it, and also read what they'd written. Match Group would send emails, letting the person know someone had shown an interest in their profile, and encouraging them to sign-up to see who had "caught" their eye.

Facebook just launched a new dating feature to complete with Match Group's dating sitesGearBrain

The problem? The FTC said that many of these interests came from accounts that Match Group had already marked "as likely to be fraudulent," they wrote in the complaint. However — paying subscribers who received pings from these accounts would never get these emails. The implication then is Match used these emails — that they suspected as fake — to get non-paying users to start paying, while protecting those who had already signed up as a subscriber.

Match faces competition

The news comes as Match Group is facing new competition from the biggest social media site in the world: Facebook. The new Facebook Dating feature is now embedded inside the social media site's mobile app, allowing its users to meet up with other users — all for free.

With Match Group, people do need to pay to connect to potential love matches. But the company did not tell these users, that they were emailing, that 25 to 30 percent of those who register are actually trying to run scams on others, said the FTC. This is an issue that even Facebook noted when it launched its service in September 2019, encouraging people to keep much of their information from their dating profiles including last names.

Man Surfing Social Networking Site On Laptop Match Group is being accused by the FTC of making it difficult for subscribers to drop the service when they wanted to leave Getty Images/iStockphoto

Match Group also made it difficult for people to leave its dating sites, creating twists and turns, leaving users "confused," said the FTC, which added that employees even noted subscribers would think they had cancelled their accounts, only to find they were still being billed. More than 21,000 reports were received by the FTC, with people saying they had lost about $143 million in 2018 alone. The FTC case will now go to court.

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