Dating services may promise to help you find a soulmate, but the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to take such advertising with a healthy dose of caution.
We're also warning consumers of the potential for an online match to be a scammer who demands money for travel, health care or other "emergencies." Most of these scammers are based overseas, and once you send money, the cash and the match may disappear forever.
The BBB received more than 2,900 complaints about dating services nationwide last year. Nearly a third of the complaints were about billing and collection issues. Poor customer service, refund or exchange issues, advertising or sales practices also prompted complaints. A press release on this topic is available online.
While some consumers have found happiness using a dating service, others have been disappointed in the quality of matches or the number of dates they were able to make using the service. Others complained that they were unable to cancel the service or obtain refunds.
The BBB's advice for those who want to try a dating or matchmaking service includes:
- Don’t fall in love with the advertising. Be skeptical of claims such as “an exclusive network of people,” “for sincere daters only” or “beautiful singles just like you.” In one case, the BBB’s National Advertising Division required one dating service to stop advertising that its methods were based on “the latest science of attraction.”
- Don’t give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Sales associates may tell you that a low price is only good for that day and ask you to sign a contract immediately. You should read the contract carefully and make sure you understand what you are signing and paying for.
- Know how to break up. Consumers should not assume that they will stop being billed once the contract runs out. Many online dating sites automatically renew memberships. Usually you must call the company or send written instructions to avoid being billed again. Read cancellation policies before you sign up.
- Beware of demands by a match to send money. Some scams that match men with foreign women typically include a request to send money to pay for a trip to the United States, using a wire service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The woman never makes the trip, and the money can’t be recovered.
- Do your homework. Ask to speak to other members or customers of the service about their experiences. Check a BBB Business Review of the service.