OPW INTERVIEW -- May 24, 2007 -- This is the fourth in a series of five interviews I recently conducted on the subject of scamming. Saïd Amin runs World Singles, which includes such sites as ArabLounge.com, EligibleGreeks.com, HyeSingles.com, IranianPersonals.com and SoulSingles.com. - Mark Brooks
What kind of scamming do you encounter on World Singles?
Most of the scammers originate from Africa and parts of the Middle East, but they are increasingly working with people in the USA/Canada. I think that scammers are a big problem for the entire industry. They pose as someone they are not, usually as a very attractive male or female and prey on unsuspecting members This is usually done by showing interest in those members via a flirt/email or by waiting for someone to contact them first. The more aggressive scammers will buy memberships and usually proceed to send a bevy of emails.
Scammer networks have since become more sophisticated. Two years ago it was a lot easier to review profiles and detect them. They have become more sophisticated with how they cover up their profiles. For example, we identify blocks of IP addresses originating from certain countries as high risk and take a second hard look at those profiles. Nowadays we are seeing an increasing number of profiles from USA/Canada based members that are also being logged in from IP addresses in other countries. So it’s essentially someone overseas working with someone in the States who, let’s say, has an AOL or Comcast account, and are working in tandem. It makes it more difficult for us to detect them. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are overseas scammer conferences or published books available on the black market that cover scamming 101 tips and strategies.
How serious is this scamming issue?
How serious? Every dating site is plagued by scammer activity; some sites and niches attract more scammers than others. I think one scammer is one too many. Singles are bravely taking ownership for their journey, posting a dating profile and putting themselves out there in the hopes of increasing their chances for finding a romantic partner. Members who join dating sites are trusting us to help them find a partner in a safe environment. Scammers, work to undermine this trust with our brand and the dating industry as a whole.
I agree and that’s my next question actually, what kind of effect do you think it has on the industry for the long term?
It hurts the industry but it is also an opportunity because it increases the value of the companies who diligently invest time and energy to ensure a safe space for singles to meet. I think that a lot of sites in the dating sector are not responsible enough in how they address scammers as far as educating their members and being transparent when scammer emails are sent and read by unsuspecting members.
When catching a scammer we suspend their profile, remove the messages that they sent and replace them with a message explaining that they have received an email from a person/scammer who is posing as someone he/she is not. There’s certainly a PR hit when this occurs; a member may have invested time emailing back and forth and now the site is recommending that they cease all communication with this individual whom we suspect to be scammer. Talk about taking the air out of a balloon of someone who may have been really excited at his or her initial communiqué with a member. Some members appreciate our proactive nature, but generally speaking there’s still a PR hit. Nevertheless, I feel that this is a responsible way to address such cases. I rather be up front with our members rather than brushing it under the rug and let our members continue emailing back forth on or off the site and risk getting scammed out of money, time, and emotions.
What else are you doing right now to combat scammers?
We double check every membership sold and review screened profiles with high risk IP addresses a second time. The same applies to profiles that have been accessed by multiple IP addresses. There are some internal tools that we use to help us and are looking to companies like Iovation for additional measures to assist us in eliminating scammer activity.
What time does scamming take from your day?
It takes up time and resources. From dealing with charge backs, reviewing IP addresses, profiles, double checking the profile/billing details for sold memberships etc., we spend a few hours each day on this.
How do you think the industry can work together to combat scammers?
The idea has been floated around by others, but it would be great to have one company that specializes in cleaning out databases or one place where all dating site operators can share banned IP addresses, email addresses, pictures, nicknames, etc. Doing so would behoove dating operators, the dating industry as a whole and most importantly, help protect our members.
What do you think the industry would pay?
I can’t speak for others but we are open to spending a good chunk of money for a service that would help fight scammer activity. The price points for such services should be determined by their value, as defined by a decrease in charge backs and overall effectiveness in catching paid/non paid scammers. Preventing scammers from joining our niche dating sites is of utmost importance and something we take pride in addressing on a daily basis. I have a responsibility to protect our members from scammers and while I’m probably not going to bat 100%, I’m striving for 100% nonetheless.