Looking for Love? Learn from BBBs Consumer Complaint History

February 13, 2014

If you’re looking for someone special by using a local or online dating service, Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York advises you to be aware of limitations for some legitimate matchmaking services as well as potential problems.

BBB provides nearly 2,000 Business Reviews for dating services. Unfortunately this industry receives complaints every year, over 3,000 in 2013. Many complaints are about billing and collection issues. Poor customer service, automatic renewals, refund issues, advertising or sales practices also prompted complaints.

“Dating services intend to find the person of your dreams but the services can be disappointing for some,” said Warren Clark, President of BBB Upstate New York. “Many have found happiness using a dating service while others complain about the quality of matches or the number of dates they were able to make using the service. It’s important to trust the dating service you hire and understand all of the contract details.”

Common matchmaking complaints include:

  • Failure to match clients with singles that met specified criteria: Non-smoking complainants said they were matched with people who smoke, well-educated people were matched with less-educated ones or religious people were matched with atheists or people from other religions. Some were matched with people who lived too far away or ever still married.
  • Use of intimidating sales tactics: Complainants reported being yelled at, being told to not be so picky or being completely ignored by the companies involved.
  • Failure to deliver: Complainants were told the service had a database of thousands of singles, but they didn’t receive the promised number of dates or introductions. Others said a singles club sponsored events to bring singles together, but the events didn’t live up to their billing.

Online Dating Complaints include:

  • Minimum enrollment period: Online dating services normally require a minimum membership period and charge a monthly fee, which is renewed automatically when it expires. Either the customer didn’t realize the steps needed to cancel the account, or the consumer took the necessary steps but billing continued anyway.
  • Inability to cancel: Consumers said some companies wouldn’t allow them to cancel the contract after being dissatisfied with the company and its process.

BBB offers the following advice on matchmaking and online dating services:

  • Don’t fall in love with the advertising. Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles just like you.” Look beyond the slogans and more toward the services offered.
  • Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should read the contract carefully and make sure you understand what you are signing and paying for.
  • Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to avoid being billed again. Read cancellation policies before you sign up.
  • Do your homework. Ask to speak to other members or customers of the service about their experiences.
  • Check BBB. Hundreds of BBB Business Reviews for dating services can be found at bbb.org

Other consumers looking for love are swindled by ‘catfishing’ or scammers who pose online as an attractive person of the opposite sex. Some scammers have taken thousands of dollars from victims by requesting money for travel, health care or other fake emergencies. When the scammers are overseas, it’s extremely difficult for law enforcement or other agencies to make arrests or recover victims’ money.

While dating sites offer convenience and anonymity, these two ingredients can present a perfect combination for scams to occur. You may feel you get to know someone through photos, email or chatting, but it’s easy for the person at the other end of the keyboard to conceal the truth.

BBB warns singles to know the warning signs of “catfishing,” and romance scams. Be wary of these signs someone may not have your best in mind:

Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service. Oftentimes, this allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter. Remember that scammers play on emotion… and romance is certainly a strong emotion. Anytime people are vulnerable, fraudsters find opportunity.

Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad. Scammers come up with all kinds of excuses why they can’t meet in person just yet. Be cautious of online daters who claim to be called away suddenly, or to be in the military and stationed overseas.

Asks for money or credit card information. In some cases the scammer will claim an emergency like a sick relative or stolen wallet, and will ask you to wire money. The first wire transfer is small but the requests keep coming and growing. Or he may ask for airfare to come for a visit. The payback promises are empty; the money’s gone, and so is he.

Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites. Third-party links can contain malware that’s designed to steal personal information off your computer. Scammers may use third party links that look credible, but in reality, they only link to viruses that can lead to identity theft.

To find out more about scams and to read up on the latest, check out BBB Scam Stopper.

For more BBB information you can trust, visit bbb.org and “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BetterBusinessBureauofUpstateNY.