-- Oct 14 -- Markus Frind, of Plentyoffish, estimates that scammers operating on Internet dating sites steal at least $100 million a year. Those performing a ruse could be women in Russia asking for money to leave their country; or a Nigerian sending "business proposition" emails. Crooks often use stolen credit cards to join a site, send out messages to other members, wait for responses then sometimes chat for four or five months before asking for money. "It's bad for someone like Yahoo because it reduces the value of their service, it tarnishes their service," says Dave Evans, a consultant to the online dating and social networking industry who also writes a blog. Nelson Rodriguez, CEO of LoveAccess.com, explained that two and a half years ago Nigerian scammers used stolen credit cards to join the site causing so many charge backs (about 1% of all transactions) that it threatened his merchant account with his bank. But he's since blocked Russian and Nigerian IP addresses and cut that rate down by three-quarters. LoveAccess.com, with 3.5 million members, also reviews profiles manually, like its bigger competitors. TRUE created a stir in the industry last summer when it announced a nationwide campaign for legislation to require dating sites to conduct criminal checks of their members. Not everyone agrees with Evans, who estimates that on the majority of dating sites, nearly 10% of all profiles are fake. Mark Brooks, a former executive with Cupid.com, FriendFinder and Friendster, disputes that figure and says the actual dating sites, not their members, are even bigger targets. Fraudsters will set up an affiliate Web site to send traffic and fake members, which earn them a commission that can exceed the price of the monthly membership, says Brooks, who also writes a blog, Online Personals Watch.
Mark Brooks: Of 120 employees onsite at Friendfinder in Palo Alto, CA, over half are dedicated to customer service and the 'abuse team'...which grooms for scammers amongst other things. Smaller sites rely on automated methods for spotting scammers. Larger sites usually apply people resources for checking profiles and dealing with scammers more proactively.