-- In a settlement it has just reached, the Federal Trading Commission is fining more than 12 online dating sites about $600,000, saying those sites created fake profiles to lure users into upgrading to paid memberships.
The FTC also said the sites did not disclose that the subscriptions would be renewed automatically, often without the users’ consent.
JDI’s dating sites boast more than 12 million users.
"The websites committed wrongdoing by failing to disclose the automatic renewal terms and they baited and switched by claiming these are the people who like you but they were really fake profiles," legal analyst Mark Eiglarsh told ABC News.
While browsing a site’s members may sometimes be free of cost, paying to send messages to members is standard and legal in the online dating industry.
For example, Match.com requires that people subscribe before they can send messages to people, but, according to the FTC, other sites, such as FlirtCrowd.com, which is run by JDI Dating, almost always used fake, computer-generated profiles that were designed to trick users into believing they had attracted the attention of an actual person.
In its press release, the FTC says “The fake profiles and messages caused many users to upgrade to paid subscriptions.”
This is the first time that the FTC has taken legal action for alleged dating deception.
Couples therapist Dr. Mike Dow told ABC News there are two things dating site users should look out for.
"Make sure you're not looking at a picture that is too good to be true," Dow said. "If a site is trying to up-sell you at every turn, that may be another red flag."
JDI Dating did not reply to ABC News' request for comment.