Online dating bill passed but ducking some responsibility

An interesting piece came up earlier this week about the laws governing online dating. For those of us who have been hanging around dating sites long enough to be given a ticket for it, we know that just because someone comes across as gentile or kind in their profile or sounds cute in their private messages, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what they’re saying’s gonna pass any lie-detector test.

And to be honest, anyone who familiarises themselves with the ‘dating site safety’ pages, for those credible sites that take the time to post them irrespective of whether it’s the law or not, should have a good idea of what not to do, even if they don’t recognise the intent by a fraudulent ne’er-do-well hiding behind a ‘borrowed’ dating site profile.

However, some dating sites’ proclamations of adhering to laws may be misleading, even though the intention is to ensure the prospective member that theirs is a safe haven to look for their one true love online.

In Illinois last week a dating site safety bill (HB4083, if anyone’s collecting bill numbers like train-spotting) passed through the house by a huge 83-26 majority in favour of forcing all dating sites in the state to categorically state on their pages whether or not their members are vetted and background checked. Great – this is an advancement in online security that the dating community has been seeking for some time. But then some bright spark has only gone and spoilt the party!

The bill itself is, in essence, the same one that passed through New Jersey and New York four and two years ago respectively. And some of the more conscientious dating site owners already comply to all the legislation held within the document. For those sites that wish to attract singles who want and expect to do their online thang in 100% assuredness that everything’s kosher, they will have to follow a similar lead.

So, that’s it, then? Sign up, check that the single has been thoroughly checked out and away you go, you’re certain your prospect is safe to date, right? Nuh-uh. Wrong.

The problem, as highlighted by many a US dating review site, is that there is no industry standard as to what is acceptable as a background check. Okay, the dating site may state that a background check has been carried out, but is that just confirming who the prospective single is who they say they are or does it involve a criminal check, which in their own rite vary from state to state?

Or, has there indeed been a criminal check carried out and the single been given a clean bill of health because the registered name doesn’t match one found on any arrest or charge sheet? Let’s face it, if a scammer was going to choose to steal someone’s identity, they’re hardly going to steal one that appeared on Crimewatch UK, are they?

So, yes, we applaud Illinois for stating its intent; all we need now is for a definitive code that constitutes what a verified background check is, and we’ll all be happy bunnies this Easter, won’t we? What will come first – the checking or the egg?

Illinois considers mandatory dating site check-ups

For a long time here on dating.org.uk, we have supported calls for a minimum regulatory standard for background checks on all new dating site sign-ups around the globe.

According to one recent survey, three people out of every ten who browse the Internet are members of one online dating facility or another. This is causing major concerns for politicians and security bureaus who are in charge of tracking down online fraudsters. The organised gangs behind online scamming, adept at hiding beyond dating site profiles, are growing in number in relation to the increased numbers of singles flocking to personals sites; many states are now moving to ensure a minimum regulation on dating sites exists to protect its unsuspecting membership from their criminal activities.

Illinois is the latest US state considering passing a bill that enforces dating sites to disclose whether or not they run any security checks on its membership. This could include any number of criminal activities that potential sign-ups may have been involved in over the years being displayed alongside their dating profile so that other singles are fully aware of who it is they may be opening up an online relationship with.

It will not be the first US state to adopt such stringent regulatory procedures, with Texas and New Jersey already administering such programs; New York, possibly the capital of online dating, categorically insists that registered dating sites within its boundaries have a clear checklist of dating safety tips that are accessible and clearly understandable to ensure browsing is undertaken with complete peace of mind.

With recent activities across cyberspace – and the offline world – showing concerns for how much politics and the authorities are restricting online freedoms, the Springfield House is concerned not to be seen as a Big Brother authoritarian, however, it acknowledges its responsibilities to its citizens and as such, the House Consumer Protection Committee have passed the bill for further deliberation in The House, proper.

Whilst the bill awaits approval, State Rep. Michelle Mussman has reminded all Illinoisans that anyone can access the online sex offender or murderer databases available to the public. That may well protect the offline activities of online dating members, but, until mandatory checks are set in stone for all, scammers will still be able to operate, picking off vulnerable singles for their money and ruining what should be one of the most joyous activities of modern day living.

Why are all the good looking ones always fakers?

In the last article we looked at dating sites’ unwillingness to take the law into their own hands and force their members to undergo identity verification, even though they know it’s the right thing. We also read how Kevin Connell from DateProtection.com is urging the public to force the issue and back his war cry. We are asking everyone who uses UK dating sites to take the matter in their own hands and get into the habit of doing so; here’s how, and the secret figures Kevin has revealed about the extent of scamming across dating land.

For the UK dating sites, we have the facility of asking our online partners to obtain an online passport through Trusted Faces / the Post Office®. A simplistic solution, whereby one creates an account with trusted faces, goes in person to the Post Office® to have their real face verified against the permanent photo they post on their Trusted Faces site and confirm the registration.  Job done.

Assuming that your dating site profile photograph looks something like your Trusted Faces photo, you can issue the interested party with a one-off ‘ticket’ to view the PO verified pic to end any argument. There is no worry about that interested party passing the ticket on to others as it expires once it has been used.

You may think that this is all a bit of a palaver and that there are not enough shady characters hiding beyond pictures of (always) beautiful people whose identity they have stolen from somewhere on the internet to bother. The following dating site secrets revealed by Kevin Connell may make you think otherwise:

1. Ten percent, statistically, of sex offenders use dating sites to source their victims; similarly, ten percent of all dating site profiles have been created by such a deviant.
2. Continuing with the ten percent theme, that’s the figure attributed to genuine, honest dating site profiles; nine out of ten people lie from everything from their physical make up to their criminal past.
3. Even as an option, rather than a compulsory measure, dating site owners are unwilling to insert a background check identification procedure, although there are many available. Membership numbers mean so much that they would rather jeopardise all of them than risk putting off a few by putting them through this extra, essential process.  We had one guy, John Syms, comment on our Online passport article stating that if these measures were implemented, he would use dating sites – I’m sure many more would feel the same and surpass the volumes choosing not to sign up because of the extra step!

There are millions of false dating profiles spattered across dating land, created by people who do not want their true identity revealed for a whole host of reasons, some legal, most not.

Laws that are in place are weak and are easily navigable by a determined criminal. Dating sites are fantastic places to meet people, to which hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers will testify. Just make sure when you meet your perfect partner online, they are indeed who they say they are.

FBI issue US Valentine warning for date protection act

The extent of seriousness to which scamming on dating sites is now being taken has become evident from the US as it has emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a warning on Valentine’s Day for public protection on exactly this matter.

The US criminal department’s cause for concern comes off the back of recent findings concerning the amount of fraudulent dating site profiles currently populating the world’s cyberspace chat rooms, forums and dating sites – the figures are just, well, scary. Yet still dating sites the world over, who have full exposure to the extent that scammers, perverts and sexual deviants are posing as decent love seekers, are just not willing to provide 100% full identity and background checks for its existing membership and new sign-ups in case it prevents genuine people looking for love online from registering to use their facilities.

Dateprotection.com is a website that fronts an organisation calling for greater online dating security on a global scale, headed up by its founder, Kevin Connell. His comments are constantly drowned out by the industry’s big game players and he, like the FBI, is calling for change on a grand scale that only the public can effect, as government authorities are either unable or unwilling to intervene.

The concept that Kevin is trying to get dating sites to accept is that all members have a right to be assured that the person they’re chatting with is genuine or at least provide an onsite means of allowing one of its members to verify any potential partner’s true identity themselves.

Currently, there are very few states in the US – the two ‘New’s – York and Jersey – that have any laws governing background checks for dating sites, although Connecticut and Illinois have also passed bills regulating them. The former only extend to paid facilities and they are not the most rigorous, asking only of the dating site owner to inform their members if they carry out criminal checks (not that they have to); in New York, there is the additional safeguard that online dating facilities must issue guidelines, many of which fall under the heading: ‘common sense’, advising its members of what to look out for and things not to do when actually meeting up offline someone they have met on site.

Singles should not feel pressurised into meeting anyone on their dating site who will not take appropriate lengths to independently verify their identification. As market leaders, Match.com and eHarmony have categorically stated that all of their membership undergo sex crime conviction checks. However, that test does not actually prove that the individual they are running the check on is the person who has actually signed up to the dating site.

Kevin Connell has revealed several secrets about the scale and industry insider knowledge of the scale of scam profiles; we will present them in our next article, along with what UK dating site members can do if they fancy someone on their site, but are unsure of their integrity.