The Information Commissioner’s office has launched an investigation
into the industry, worth £2.5 billion a year, on the grounds it could
be breaching data protection rules.
Panorama purchased the data of 10,000 people from Usdate – a company
which sells profiles to sites - and found it included photographs of
Brad Pitt, Michael Caine and Rick Stein. Some of the contact details
were genuine, including the email addresses of academics, a House of
Lords life peer and BBC employees, all of whom said they had never
used a dating website.
Whistle-blower Ryan Pitcher has also confirmed he ran a team creating
“pseudo” profiles for Global Personals, the third largest dating
company in Britain, responsible for more than 10,000 dating sites,
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He said: "We'd steal someone's identity through say My Space or
something, we'd take someone from a totally different country, ie.
Spain or wherever it may be.
“We'd take the person's photos online and we'd start knocking out
messages. It was all fake and under the pretence that it was real."
Global Personals said that since 2010 it has ensured that the site is
free of pseudo accounts.
However, on one of their sites, Flirt Naughty, investigations
uncovered 198 profiles of women within five miles Hogha Gerraidh in
the Western Isles. In reality fewer than 100 people live within five
miles of the tiny hamlet.
On Cupid.com a false test profile set up by the documentary makers for
“James”, 46, from Glasgow, received nearly 500 messages in two
One perfect match was “Kazb”, who was using a photograph of Karen
Bartke, an actress appearing in several prime-time dramas, including
Monarch of the Glen.
Although she has tried online dating, Miss Bartke said she never used
Cupid's website, adding: “It's done purely to take money from that
person who's in a vulnerable situation already because it takes a bit
of guts to be, to be open and say here is who I am, are you interested
“I really object to someone taking advantage with people like that,
using my photo."