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The U.S. government on Wednesday sued the owner of the popular online dating service Match.com, alleging it tricked hundreds of thousands of people into purchasing paid subscriptions to the dating service and put them at risk of fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which filed the lawsuit, alleges that the Match Group duped people in that manner from 2013 until mid-2018.
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Altogether the FTC complaint alleges five deceptive or unfair practices used to induce people looking for love to subscribe to Match.com and stay subscribed. Some of those practices were in place until mid-2019, the agency says.
In recent years as many as 25 to 30 percent of Match.com members who registered each day were using the dating service to perpetuate romance scams, extortion scams — or what is sometimes “sextortion” — and other wrongs, the FTC alleges.
What is sextortion?
Sextortion happens when scam artists induce a person to send compromising photos or videos and then use the images to extort money from the victim by threatening to send the images to the victim's friends or family, the suit says.
In response, the company in a statement called the allegations “completely meritless” and pledged it would vigorously defend itself in court. The company acknowledged the FTC had raised potential claims relating to Match.com's marketing, chargeback and online cancellation policies. It said the FTC offered last November to resolve the potential claims if Match Group paid $60 million and agreed to change some of its business practices. But no agreement was reached.
Match.com operates in the U.S. and 24 other countries, the suit says. Its parent company has 45 dating services, including Tinder, OkCupid and Plenty of Fish, in more than 40 languages.