UK dating site may be template for online fraud detection

Existing practises by one UK dating advice site may hold the key to helping Google cut down on the amount of ‘bad actor’ ads it has slipping through its nets every month, specifically in this report, appertaining to human trafficking.

AdWords, probably the most successful online advertising method on the Internet, has been dogged with advertisements for all manner of dodgy products in the past, pharmaceutical aids for improved sexual performance being one of the first categories that spring to mind. A persistent pest they are at least, a scam they are at worst and for the in between, there is little way to prove that the product works or doesn’t and absolutely no way of getting your money back if they categorically don’t.

But that type of nuisance is small fry compared to a much bigger issue being championed once again by NAHVTA’s Philip J. Cenedella. The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates is calling on Google, even writing to Larry Page directly, to stop all online dating ads that may be a front for human trafficking.

Google, according to one recent report, spends millions every year policing just such practises but, because of the volume, literally billions of ads every year that appear alongside blogs, search engine results and even next to your message in a Gmail inbox (how intrusive is that?) as Adsense advertisements to generate income for the blog-master, it is increasingly difficult to catch ’em all.

However, Cenedella will not be happy until there is “0.0%” of human trafficking in dating site ads displayed using the AdWords/AdSense medium, however unrealistic that may be. But he’s not afraid of a scrap this one; he’s took on some big names in the virtual and real world in his efforts to stop human trafficking in all its guises. In 2009 it was the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Washington, a year later Craigslist and last year, and still in progress, was a personal battle against Backpage. This year he has turned his attention to take on the huge resources that are cyberspace’s giant organisations and responsible for the majority of adverts we see in our browsers, namely Twitter, Facebook, Google and Bing.

Back to the original example, Google requires all pharmacy ads to go through both manual and algorithmic vetting before being shown – this may be through a third party and certainly draws from the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practise Sites database available in the US. But for online dating, there is no such registrar, at least across The Pond.

In the UK, we have the Association of British Introduction Agencies that allows you to use their site and find a dating site near you that has been run through rigorous checks and must meet exacting standards of Internet safety before it can appear alongside other dating sites that have qualified similarly.

However, there has been some doubt raised about the impracticability of operating such a system on such a large scale. Also, David Evans of OnlineDatingPost.com reveals that these criminals are ‘like quick-silver’. The moment they know you’re onto them, they disband, disappear and come back braver and uglier than ever.

In the meantime, it seems Cenedella will just have to be patient as Google will only bow to the authorities and has been working closely with them already in an attempt to banish such practises. There is no easy solution and, as much as human traffic is associated with dating sites, it is not the biggest problem this industry faces in criminality; whilst fighting to keep fraudsters off our pages is obviously a good thing, finding extra man hours and budget to cope with spurious ads on free dating sites will be huge costs that many webmasters have not budgeted for.

Cenedella makes an absolutely fair point about the dating ads, but, rather than just point the finger, it would be good to hear him come up with a solution. We wait with bated breath.

New online dating treaty may raise core product value

We’ve long been advocates of dating site safety being a matter of course, not choice, here on dating.org.uk/category/online-dating-security. At last, it would seem that the law courts in California have put their feet down in a statement that categorically states security on dating sites should guarantee membership safety from scammers or individual targeting from fraudsters who are not who they purport to be or have a hidden past that they are choosing to leave out of their dating site profile.

It has often been thought that, if the top mainstream dating sites tow the line with their vast membership, then the others – that can afford to do so*- will follow suit. Instantly signing up to put online daters safety first are Spark, eHarmony and Match, who have vowed to begin screening for scammers, identity theft and predators of a sexual nature.

However, this is not a law that has been passed, but an official declaration through a recognised lawful body that the three dating sites will do whatever they can within their power to make their dating sites safer places for all members. It is hoped, and suspected, that other online dating platforms will go to the same lengths to protect their membership, but many may not have the budget for the man hours or the software to make this Utopian sector of cyberspace a reality.

Does this treaty signal the end of the free dating site?

*The three initial treaty dating sites to this endeavour sit right on the top branches of the online dating tree. They do make millions of pounds every year and can throw mega-bucks at the venture to ensure it is pulled off. And no doubt they will – it will be money better spent than on any marketing campaign that their sales and scientists could ever have dreamed up.

There are thousands upon thousands of horror stories every year where gullible singles have entrusted small fortunes to scammers disguised as genuine love interests with ‘believable’ plights. For those who have been burnt in the past but want to continue looking for love online, they will jump at the opportunity to sign up to a totally secure dating environment.

This will see free dating sites, who rely on advertising only for sponsorship, struggle to uphold any guarantees it makes and see online lovers leave in their droves to the protective umbrella of the three dating sites who have signed up to look after their respective memberships, plus the many who are expected to follow with similar credible promises.

it wouldn’t surprise this dating correspondent to see membership fees rise as a result of this extra safeguard. All of a sudden, the law has handed the online dating market a tool to promote its core product, hence commanding a bigger price in the market. Yes, you may feel safer, but just be sure that it’s not your dating site that ends up legally fleecing you, instead of a bogus profile created somewhere in deepest Africa.

Use ad space to make the right impression

There’s gold in tham thar hills, they used to say, at least in the black and white movies that graced our screens in the fifties and sixties every time there was a film shot about the gold-rush. Pointing the way was a Steptoe-like figure with a chin you could hang your coat on, a single tooth and the odd white whisker jutting from said unnaturally long facial protrusion making the character look a few nuggets short of a pan-full.

The gold in the hills may well have long since been excavated, but there is a modern-day mine which has seemingly bottomless reserves with ‘trending’ companies throwing their stashes at it to make the public at large aware of their presence and that the brand they purport is a must have. The hill is the Internet, the nuggets advertising space and the folks throwing money at it are, at least in Australia, dating sites.

Of the top three online display advertisers in Australia, two of them are the larger corporations behind several online dating sites, with only the National Australian Bank separating pole position and third. Strangely enough, weight watchers is fourth, so you can pretty much imagine the average Aussie’s night in –

  1. click on Match.com,
  2. see if I’ve got money in the bank for another dating site membership,
  3. yes I have, so click on be2,
  4. better lose some weight if I’m going to pull him/her, ah, good, there’s weightwatchers.

In the top ten, there were other holding companies behind other dating networks featuring strongly as well as other dieting sites, making up the 15.5M+ total of display ad impressions shown across Australian cyberspace for the month. The PPC/CPC rates must be horrendous to service advertising that is so popular. And these are not just displayed ads – these are results of people genuinely clicking through to see who could possibly be waiting for them behind an online dating portfolio or how they can best shift that annoying spare tyre.

comScore, who compiled the results, admitted that being able to implement the technology to break down which of the ads clicked on where hosted freely or which an affiliate had paid to position where they thought it may receive the most traffic was nigh on impossible. Their data represents only the fact that the ads deemed legitimate to qualify for the data gathering exercise had been ‘absolutely seen’, in other words physically clicked on to transfer the images and Alt text from the hosting server to the consumer’s PC. That is a lot of revenue generated by advertising in this manner.

According to the statistics that accompany this report, regular Internet users in Australia see in the region of 1,000 of these ads per month, displayed in search engine results, alongside e-mail inboxes (boy, that gets my goat – if your inbox isn’t safe from third parties, what next?) and on individual blogs and websites – every spare pixel, it seems, is taken up by an advertiser who wants to separate the consumer from their hard-earned cash. If you use free dating sites, you’ll know exactly what this feels like as the absolute majority of their income comes from advertising revenue.

So next time you log on to your dating site and it’s boasting ‘millions’ of members, they may just be telling the truth…

The common downsides of the free online dating service

There are one or two things you should watch out for if you opt for a free dating site, which make their money mainly through advertising. There is often little left in the pot to stretch to on-site security and vetting of sign-up members as a direct result. You should never give out any sensitive information on dating sites, anyway, but on free platforms this goes double as the person to whom you’re chatting may not have been checked out at all. Things are getting better, but until there is a uniform minimum level of dating site security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Another ingenious way a few free dating site webmasters have found to top up their income (these are the exception, not the rule, we believe) is by selling their ‘list’. That list being anyone who has signed up for their dating site since they started up or as long as they can legally hold on to that information. If they’re immoral enough to sell their list, it is also likely they’ll plead ignorance to any charges of holding on to your data past the legal time limit.

This may be of little consequence to you now but, in a few years time when you’re perhaps with a partner who was unaware of your dating site history, it may cause a whole load of hassle between you and your partner when you start getting bombarded with e-mails asking if you’re still ‘up for a one-night stand’, or whatever you disclosed to the site in the past.

And if you’re looking for long term relationships based on in-depth compatibility studies, you’re best off looking to upgrade to a paid matchmaking service who have gained their brand and reputation by being able to deliver whatever it is you’re looking for (there are different horses for different courses). You may only encounter people who are only using the free service for a bit of fling, chat or giggle and not in it for a serious, long term commitment, so it’s best to be aware of the site’s inclinations before you expend time and energy on a lost cause from the outset.

So, in a nutshell – free dating’s great for learning the ropes and a quick scout of who’s dating in your area, but not exactly secure and populated, in the main, by youngsters getting the hang of online dating and perhaps not into relationships seriously enough to go the extra mile and stump up a few quid to find a partner online with whom they’re truly matched.

Is mixing booze with your free dating site a good idea?

In today’s super-fast Autobahn that is life, it’s a wonder we have pleasure for anything. As the organisations we work for threaten us with redundancies and that we ought to be grateful for having a job that hasn’t rewarded us with a pay rise for three years, where does “fun” come in to it all?

This is causing a whole generation of young workers to be over-cautious, squirreling what little they can away just in case the worst were to happen and, instead of stumping up £4.00 a pint and little change out of a tenner if you offer to buy a potential partner a drink when you’re at the bar buying your own, is it any wonder youngsters are turning to free dating sites as a virtual way of getting to know the opposite sex? And where are the middle-upper classes getting the idea that alcohol is cheap? Yeah, if you’re on £100k/year.

With wages low and breweries commanding so much for a beer over the counter, a whole generation is growing up drinking off-license beer at home before they even step out of the house, arranging to meet anyone they can from their free dating site later that evening after they’ve already drank enough to drown a seasoned seaman.

Are free dating sites as secure as paid matchmaking services?

The issue with free dating sites – and this is just a generalisation, there are some excellent free dating facilities on the Internet – is that many of them only raise income from the advertising of other dating sites that they post alongside their own ‘membership’.

If the world of online dating was a 100% secure environment, there would be no issue with this, whatsoever. The problem lies in the fact that, especially on free dating platforms, scammers lie in wait hoping to tempt vulnerable individuals within the dating site community to part with their cash for any number of sob stories that unsuspecting singles can fall for due to a whole host of their own emotional reasons. And the scammers know it.

Whereas paid membership dating sites can invest a sizeable amount of their income to protect its membership, free online dating agencies do not have this luxury, exposing its membership to a whole host of criminal activity awaiting behind dubiously gorgeous profile photos for a free dating site platform.

The point is, that once you start drinking, your guard lowers. If, when using free dating sites, your usual level of caution is abandoned, you are even more liable to entertain advances from scammers or any manner of person who has not been vetted.

If you are using your free dating site facility, great, but do so responsibly. Likewise, if you are drinking, do so responsibly. If you are drinking and using your dating site, hide your credit card and bank details somewhere safe and, if you do arrange to meet someone, take one of your friends with you!

Social media and dating sites – what’s the difference?

The world has gone crazy for social media. It’s accessible from your mobile, your tablet and even the traditional way through your laptop or even older tower PC.

Whether it’s the facebook, Twitter or G+, it seems everyone has an account with one, two or all of them. Different friends, networks and, when you start filtering sites such as LinkedIn into the bargain, job opportunities, too.

Once the 9-5 is over, it’s straight onto your mobile to check your likes, +1’s or mentions and a night in peering over the top of the laptop catching bits and pieces of your favourite show while you catch up with all of your messages online.

All of the above, even the professional networking sites, allow you to display a profile, with pictures and your personal likes, dislkes and history. So what is the difference between sites like these and online dating sites?

It’s apparent, from the new dating sites that are springing up in cyberspace, that they are moving towards social media designs to help users find their feet more quickly.

So it’s only natural that people who already use social media would begin to use that platform to start dating.

facebook makeovers off the wall

Instead of family pets or two year old sons and daughters filling walls and pages, facebook users are beginning to post pouting profile pictures instead.

And, as well as old school friends and professional colleagues, their walls are being plastered with hopefuls who they’ve never met responding to teasing profiles, encouraging a response typically reserved for online dating sites.

extended networks of friends easily accessible

There are facilities that allow you to view, not only your friends, but your friends’ friends too.

A leapfrog over your own best mate to one of their buddies, deemed somewhat unacceptable offline without an introduction, is not only acceptable but almost expected. These sites are ways to meet friends, but you have to do the searching for someone who really interests you.

Hashtags are one way of searching, but they are in no way as filtered as the specific algorithms and scientific processes that dating sites use to pair couples based on the information they enter about themselves and what their ‘searchees’, or desired perfect partner, has entered about themselves.

Social Media has its place online and, as it continues to grow, will only continue to evolve. But into dating sites?

There may be similarities between free dating services and social media but they’ll never be able to produce the same results as the personal touch that a paid dating site membership can deliver.

Check out our choice of the top dating services based on our algorithms and see if you can tell the difference at a real dating site.

Online dating facing up to winkers

Social media and online dating are, inevitably, becoming more alike. More often than not, new dating sites are utilising the familiar aspects of social media in an attempt to help new singles site sign-ups get around their online platform in a manner they’re used to.

FaceDating.com has incorporated both aspects with the launch of their new dating site, which offers a free membership only and a whole host of extra services for those who wish to upgrade to ‘subscribers’ level with their dating site membership.

As social media is, for the most, free, you would think that there is little call for upgrading to a paid membership. However, the thousands of dating sites that are online prove that there is, explaining why there seems to be new dating sites springing up every week.

Facebook has its likes and G+ has its +1’s – it would appear that more and more dating sites are opting for winks as a way for one member to indicate to another that they’re interested in what they see in your profile. If, however, you’re not so keen when you receive such a notification, you can block the winkers, whether you have a paid or free membership on this dating site.

The site has a basic, simple to follow structure, allowing you to put in the most basic requirements for your search for your free membership, which you can customise and filter further with a paid package.

The subscriber plan allows you all of the basic benefits plus a whole host of extra services which increment the higher and longer the plan to which you subscribe.

For those serious about dating there is a choice of plans which range from a basic one-month upgrade for $35.99 to test the water up to the Best Value plan which is an all-singing and dancing membership for 6 months at $17.99/month.

The two 6-month packages they offer also include the FaceDating.com guarantee, not available with any other of the services you choose to subscribe to.

Do be careful, whichever plan you choose, if you wish to withdraw your paid membership. FaceDating.com have made it very clear that you will be charged at your existing membership rate automatically at the subscription level to which you have committed until you notify them to the contrary.  At least they have made this extremely clear, devoting a whole sidebar to the details which remains static as you flick through the choice of upgrades.

For the top five dating sites based on our market research, we have them at the click of a button to help you find your perfect partner in minutes.

Help! Which dating site?

When you’re new to the world of online dating, it can seem a daunting place. So many faces to see on so many differing types of dating site that you pass by some of the best ones, just because one member is showing his ass on a photo and you want nothing to do with sites like that, thank you very much!

Here are a few helpful guidelines that, whether you’re new to online dating or are a seasoned pro, are worth taking a look at, if only to refresh your memory if your existing one has gone a bit lame, or you’ve filtered out the types of sites you’re not interested in and are looking for more of those that you are.

If you’ve never played about with dating sites before and are not really sure what to expect, you’ll maybe want to try out all of the different sorts of free dating sites first, to assess the different facilities that you can expect from these types of social interaction sites.  Like everything, you get what you pay for – free is okay, but tends to be full of less serious daters; if you’re looking for long-term relationships and security, you’re best choosing the paid option, from the off.

But don’t run before you can walk – certain types of dating sites tend to stick with what they know, either because their methods are tried and tested or you are playing on a free dating site that’s been created from a simple template and has just the basic features to help you find your love online.

What you will find, as you trudge from page to page, is that many sites offer a free level of membership, which offers just enough interaction with the other dating site profiles or members to get you interested. Then, if you want to take the relationship further, it will cost you to ‘see’ whoever it is you’re looking to date offline.

Some dating sites will actually let you search for members, as well as letting their community search for you. You may or may not fall into a category as an ‘exact’ or ‘closest match‘ against searches aligned to the terms you enter in your profile.

Matchmaking sites tend to ask a little bit more about you and they run predetermined algorithms that hope to give you a computerised personality which will, hopefully, match with a like-minded single in your target group.

And not that there’s much of a difference these days but there are dating sites that are more akin to a social network than the serious dating alchemy used by the matchmaking sites.

If you’re new, it’s worth having a dabble at a few of the free ones. If you enter ‘dating site for’ into your google search box and you have the ‘suggested’ box ticked, there will be a ‘dating site for…’ every letter of the alphabet, I’ll wager. Whether you’re new to online dating or your existing site’s no longer doing it for you, shake it up a bit. Write down your interests and just go for it.

There has to be a dating site for everything, as there are even dating sites for writers
…so I’ve heard, of course.

UK singles represent different target market for dating site

The tenth most visited dating site in the UK, boasting 120,000 visitors in September alone, has intentions to boost those volumes by taking a different approach to their view of the potential online dating UK audience.

Being only just in the top ten, according to information gathering organisation comScore, perhaps does the matchmaking site an injustice, as the chart ranks both paid and free dating sites together. However, they do still have a way to go to catch up with their nearest ‘paid-for’ membership site rival who, in comparison, attracted 698,000 from their group of dating websites.

But that is not their concern; figures may look good on paper, but they are not judging their own performance on that statistic.

The UK singles market is a different proposition to its US counterpart, where this dating site’s motto has grown from their ‘conversion rate’, whereby they claim to be responsible for “5% of all new marriages,” in Northern America.

But that is not going to be their driver when looking how to best service the UK singles market. The mission is not about simply getting people together to make their advertising look good, although the UK manager does state ‘the faster people leave the site, the happier I am’, but rather the plan is getting people together who are going to stay together in a long-term relationship by focusing on what makes them ‘really tick’.

bringing in the experts to connect on all levels

In order to make the UK dating dream a reality, i.e. getting couples together whose profiles suggest that they possess ‘twice as much likelihood to stay together’, the company have hired a specialist marketing organisation who ‘know how to connect different points of view in a competitive marketplace.’

The PR company, who will be looking after the dating site’s Australian interest, too, also look after the brand recognition of globally recognised icons Nintendo and Costa. If that is not pedigree enough, they recently won Marketing Week Engage Awards’ agency of the year award, to compound their market-leader status.

The drive to enamour itself with the UK dating market will also include monitoring and improving the mechanics and interactive capabilities for ‘who’s and ‘how’s of the dating site membership, specifically how singles use the facilities.

As well as the components that the members are used to, there are already ongoing tests to bring the site from a static web-page into the hands of mobile users, incorporating payment checkouts, web-chat using cam technology and location-based apps to literally date on the go.

So, let’s hope the integration of all of these components is swift, seamless and harmonious, for the long-term relationships of British singles, everywhere.

Christian dating site and young adults group join forces

ChristianCafe.com and Boundless.org provide convenient way for young adults to meet

On this side of the pond, dating sites are used by younger singles looking to make contact online to dip their toes into the water of discovering what relationships are all about. Yes, there are some UK dating sites where a focus on faith is pivotal to its nature, but any reference to faith in this country, rather than add leverage to its pulling power distances many sectors of the younger dating generation.

Whether that says more about our society or whether US faith-based society have learnt that good marketing is not a teaching from Beelzebub himself, I’ll leave you to decide.

The combination of ChristianCafe.com, a ‘God-honouring’ dating site (atheists need not apply) and Boundless.org, who take young adults under their wing, aims to teach age-groups who may be ignorant of the Bible’s teachings how to date well in God’s eyes.

Boundless, a subsidiary of Focus on the Family, already have a target audience for ChristianCafe.com; built up from it podcasts and online posts, these youngsters are already exposed to views regarding ‘biblical dating and relationships’ from a Christian point of view.

Not that this is a free dating service; it would seem that dues still have to paid, whether you have been groomed in the ways of Christian dating or just fancy signing up. As well as refreshing the message of the Bible and its teaching in the arts of love and romance in the eyes of God, the new partnerships has committed to ‘providing [young adults] with proven relationship advice.’

In addition, the joining of the two organisations believes that it is offering members “..another avenue for meeting, marrying and starting a God-honoring family in a way that’s culturally relevant yet still biblical and intentional.”

For existing Boundless readers, there is an additional one week free to run consequentially after the initial trial period.

If you fancy checking out the podcasts or articles issued by Boundless.org, you can sign up for a free weekly newsletter, here.

Alternatively, if you wish to go straight for that extra week’s free trial on top of the first ten days (7 free, + 3 for posting photos), go direct to ChristianCafe.com’s dating site and enter the promo code “Boundless” to qualify.

All very convenient, I’m sure you’ll agree.

A free date for your diary?

Very rarely, these days, do we get offered a little something for nothing, especially on the internet. So, when we encounter a free dating site, we are guarded before we even begin perusing potential partners, keenly awaiting us behind possibly dubious profiles.

Okay, that’s maybe harsh.

To paraphrase even more cliches in the love-seekers handbook, there are exceptions to every online dating rule and you will find the odd diamond or two in the rough.

However, singles dating sites that do not charge a membership or sign-up fee are reliant upon sponsorship and advertising fees alone for their revenue. With a site-owner who has a knack for web-design, this may not be immediately noticeable, front-of-house.

Where you may notice a difference to paid membership sites, however, is in a lack of real-time admin or long-term support. This could range from individual requests being answered to the potentially more dangerous ommission of site-owners corroborating its members dating profiles.

Another important factor to keep in mind, when deciding where to start looking for love on line, is the type of relationship you’re expecting to find. Should you be looking for serious, long-term commitment, perhaps free dating sites aren’t the best place to start.

From the female point of view, if your prospective dating material is unprepared or unable to pay for the priviledge of meeting you, that in itself may raise questions about his calibre, attitude or financial standing. From the male prospective, what self-respecting woman wouldn’t dip into her purse to attract a higher class of gent than the fellow outlined above?

The exception to the rule is if you are completely new to website matchmaking services; in which case, free personals chat-rooms and forums are great places to get the hang of online dating and to get the low-down of the service you’re using.

And again, if you’re only after a casual online relationship, then free sites should suffice. More recently, they have become one of the more fashionable ways to get to know the opposite sex.

In all seriousness, though, if you do arrange to meet up with a member of a free dating site, and you have the slightest suspicion about their online credentials, do suggest that the first few dates are supervised or in close proximation to your regular stomping grounds. If there is nothing malicious about the intentions of your date, they will raise no objections, whatsoever.

Good luck – I hope your diamond doesn’t have too many rough edges!