People-Searching Website Sued as 'Scam'

Website charges to "see who's searching for you."

ByABC News
August 18, 2011, 4:12 PM

Aug. 19, 2011 — --, a social-networking website that says it helps old friends reconnect, has been labeled as a "scam" in a lawsuit that claims it tells people "someone" is searching for them, then charges them for "a list of fake names." The site has now tried unsuccessfully to have the suit quashed, though lawyers for both sides said the case is in its early stages.

The class-action suit, filed in February in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., accuses MyLife of luring people to pay $7.95 for membership to find out who may be looking them up, then charging $100 or more to their credit cards.

"It gets worse," said the suit. "Victims of the ruse then find that MyLife hacks into their address books to target their friends, family and other contacts with spam solicitations stating that 'someone' is looking for them."

MyLife, along with its executives and investors, moved to have the suit dismissed, but District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled this week the suit can go forward, though only against the website and not, for now, against the individuals. The case has now been combined with a second, similar complaint. The next hearing is Sept. 1.

"Clearly the case is without merit," said Jeffrey Tinsley, CEO and founder of MyLife, in a telephone interview.

"We've been in business nine years, and we're proud of the service we offer," he said. "We wouldn't benefit from fake searches. We'd just get a lot of people angry."

MyLife's homepage is dominated by a bright green box: "See Who's Searching For You." In it, you can enter your name, age and ZIP code to "find out instantly," though before it gives you any results, it takes you to a new page, inviting you to enter your email address and "get alerts for new searches on your name."

The site also features "success stories" from members who found relatives or long-lost friends.

"Without we would both still be alone and sad," says a woman quoted as finding her best childhood friend after 20 years. "Now we laugh every night."

The complaint paints a very different picture.

" is a scam that begins with a false solicitation telling potential victims that 'someone' is searching for them, and they can find out who by paying a small fee," the suit said.

It added that users do not realize they are signing up for long-term subscriptions.