There can be a variety of problems when utilizing online dating sites.
Some sites expect members to subscribe “blind,” meaning that users have had little or no ability to search or preview the profiles they will get to see. eHarmony is one example of this kind of site.
A majority of dating sites keep profiles online for months or even years since the last time the person has logged in, thereby making it seem as though there are more available members than there actually are.
For paying members, it is often unclear whether a potential contact has a full subscription and whether he or she will be able to reply. Some sites prevent a potential contact from even reading a paying member’s messages unless the contact also subscribes. There are still, however, a few established free dating sites that allow users to reply to messages.
Some sites require that both the sender and recipient of messages be subscribers before any off-site communication or contact can be arranged, and will filter messages to remove email addresses, telephone numbers, web addresses and surnames. Subscribers who attempt to circumvent this restriction may lose their membership and be removed from the site.
Some profiles may not represent actual daters, but are “bait profiles” that have been placed there by the site owners to attract new paying members. Both Yahoo Personals and Match.com have received several complaints about this tactic. Some users spam sites with “fake” profiles that are in reality advertisements to other services, such as prostitution, multi-level marketing, or other personals websites.
Even when members’ profiles are “real”, there is still an inherent lack of trust with other members. Many members misrepresent themselves by telling flattering ‘white lies’ about their height, weight, age, or by using old and misleading photos. Members can, of course, ask for an up-to-date photograph before meeting others. Matrimonials Sites are a variant of online dating sites, and these are geared towards meeting people for the purpose of getting married. Gross misrepresentation is less likely on these sites than on ‘casual dating’ sites. Casual dating sites are often geared more towards short term (potentially sexual) relationships.
Online predators find online dating sites especially attractive, because such sites give them an unending supply of new targets of opportunity for Internet fraud. A recent study, led by Dr. Paige Padgett from the University of Texas Health Science Center, found that there was a false degree of safety assumed by women looking for love on the internet, exposing them to stalking, fraud, and sexual violence. Some online dating sites conduct background checks on their members in an attempt to avoid problems of this nature.
Most members are enticed to join dating websites with free or low-priced “trial” memberships advertised on many other websites. On sites which require credit card information to join at all, these trial memberships may automatically become full memberships at the end of the trial period and charge the full monthly fee, without any additional action from the member, regardless of whether the member has actually used the services or not.
Some members have expressed complaints about the billing practices of certain dating sites. In some cases, trial memberships that were canceled within the trial period were automatically re-billed even after canceling. To avoid these potential problems, some users have advised using a virtual credit card number which is offered by several credit card companies.
On any given dating site, the sex ratio is commonly unbalanced. For example, eHarmony’s membership is about 58% female and 42% male, whereas the ratio at Match.com is about the reverse of that. When you get into the specialty niche websites where the primary demographic is male, you typically get a very unbalanced ratio of male to female or female to male. Niche sites cater to people with special interests, such as sports fans, racing and automotive fans, medical or other professionals, people with political or religious preferences (e.g. Jewish), people with medical conditions (e.g. HIV+, obese), or those living in rural farm communities.
Disreputable sites such as Quechup may harvest users’ personal information and contacts for use in e-mail spam.
Consolidation within the online dating industry has led to different newspapers and magazines now advertising the same website data base under different names. In the UK, for example, Time Out (‘London Dating’), The Times (‘Encounters’), The Daily Telegraph (‘Kindred Spirits’), all offer differently named portals to the same service — meaning that a person who subscribes through more than one publication has unwittingly paid more than once for access to just one site.