Saturday, February 17, 2007
Do you see where I'm going with this? Spammers, or people who sell email address lists to spammers, are using dating sites to gather legitimate email addresses. It's simple, it's free, and it's self verifiable, and there's no way to get caught unless they monitor your usage. Chances are that they'll keep you on because they want to impress people with the number of subscribers to their dating site. I've seen the same woman's picture on three different profiles on one site, two in the U.S. (different states) and one in Europe.
Now, let's take it up a notch. What if the entire dating site is one big honeypot, completely illegitimate? I've pretty much found one that's based in Belgium. Google "sex personals and beyond" for the curious. It appears to be completely fraudulent. The ratio of men to women is greater than 5:1, and I'm guessing 90% of the paying women subscribers are phony and that's probably an overly generous assessment. It's the perfect online honeypot. It lures male subscribers with promises of romance and sex. They try to keep them hooked with one liner email replies from fictional "paying" female subscribers. There are many, many more free subscribers than paying subscribers who are female. Most of them appear to be fictional constructs used for gathering email addresses.
The problem is that what I've just described isn't unusual behavior any more for any dating site. It probably comes down to degrees, from mostly legitimate to thoroughly illegitimate. No dating site is transparent due to privacy issues (stalkers) and they are all the perfect cover for scam artists and email address harvesters. The only people who could tell us have no economic or business incentive to disclose how many of their clients or subscribers are real people looking for romance or a date. So, you could describe any of the worst offending dating web sites as a third variant of honeypot, or as a money scam and email address trap at best.
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