(BBB) – While most online dating services strive to provide the best customer service experience possible and success stories in ads for such services can make it sound like true love is just a click away, it’s not always that easy.
Be aware of the limitations, costs, and terms of the services as well as the potential for fraud before you jump into online dating. Meeting people online may sound easy and safe, but consumers need to keep their guard up to avoid being swindled, hurt, or worse.
Some consumers have found happiness using a dating service, but others have been disappointed in the quality of matches or the number of suitable people they were able to meet using the service.
BBB has received more than 1,100 complaints about dating services over the past two years. Many concern billing and collection issues. Poor customer service, refund issues, advertising, or sales practices also prompt complaints. Often, customers complain that it is difficult to cancel the service because it is automatically renewed.
Consumers need to make sure they understand what they are signing up for when they use an online dating service. Read any contracts, terms or conditions carefully to understand how you will be charged and what you need to do to cancel. Some consumers complained that they signed up for a free trial, but their credit cards were charged before they could cancel.
Here are some common complaints about dating services and how you can avoid similar problems:
- Failure to match clients with compatible singles. Complaints included non-smokers matched with people who smoke; well-educated people matched with less-educated ones; religious people matched with atheists; or matches that lived too far away or were married. Make sure you understand how matches are selected and how much control you have over the selection criteria.
- Use of intimidating or duplicitous sales tactics: Complainants reported being yelled at, being told to not be so picky, or being completely ignored by the companies involved. If this happens to you, simply hang up and find another service that is willing to listen to your concerns and requirements for a potential match.
- Failure to deliver: Complainants were told the service had a database of thousands of singles, but they didn’t receive the promised number of dates or introductions. Others said a singles club sponsored events to bring singles together, but the events didn’t live up to their billing. Whenever possible, talk to others who’ve used the service before, to better understand its successes and limitations.
- Minimum enrollment period and inability to cancel: Online dating services normally require a minimum membership period and charge a monthly fee. Contracts often are renewed automatically. Either the customer didn’t realize the steps needed to cancel the account, or the consumer took the necessary steps but billing continued anyway. Be sure to have a clear understanding of the cancellation policy and deadlines before enrolling.
- 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 like you.”
- 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 it. It is your right as a consumer to consider an offer or contract before signing.
- 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.
- 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 transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The woman never makes the trip. Others claim to have been deployed overseas and will request funds to pay for an urgent surgery or to be bailed out of jail. Once the funds are sent, the money is gone – unrecoverable.
- Do your homework. Check a BBB Business Profile of the service by going online to bbb.org.
For more information, check out two studies from the BBB – an in-depth investigative study on romance scams in 2018, as well as a follow-up study in 2019 about the potential for romance scam victims used as money mules.