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Comments

Janet Reiss

Educating our members about online dating scammers is an important component of our customer service policy.

Michael

The solution to this problem is for the dating industry to work together on a common shared system. The gaming/casino industry shares a database on known cheats and criminals. They realized it was in everyone’s best interest to share this data.

I challenge anyone in the online dating industry to dispute the fact that sharing data on scammers is not good for everyone. And please don't say "this isn't a problem for me. Maybe it is just your site". I am an active online dater and I see these scammers everywhere. Even on the "big" sites.

Furthermore I will personally commit my time and resources to a common solution. If a lowly little 2 million member site like onlinebootycall.com can make this commitment. Surely big sites like yahoo, match, true, etc. can make the same commitment?

Just think of the satisfaction that would come from banding together to squash these pests. That is unless they are smarter than we are…

Questions, comments, concerns?

Michael Ramsbacker
CTO - www.onlinebootycall.com

James Houran

Michael,

What do you see as some viable common solutions for the industry?

Thanks,

James Houran, Ph.D.
Online Dating Magazine

Markus

"I challenge anyone in the online dating industry to dispute the fact that sharing data on scammers is not good for everyone"

I think the fact that it clearly breaks US, UK and Canadian law may have something to do with it.

Casino's are not based in north america so they don't have to follow our rules.

TheFraudKahuna

I have seen this strategy, combined forces, work combating fraud in other industries. At iovation I'm working with fraud managers across the globe. Watching them share reputation of confirmed fraud activity does help them stop more fraud.

While simply hashing the email address and the IP address might have some measure of success, it will not be a long-term solution. Because, all the fraudster has to do to defeat it is to use a different email or IP address.

To do this right, you must deploy a sophisticated device identification technology. And to avoid any privacy law issues, this technology must not collect any personally identifiable information. You will also need an enterprise class back-end database that can sustain the complex model of the web of associations that is naturally created each time the end-user logs into an account from a PC. Then, in order to share reputation, somebody has to serve as the aggregator hosting the data of your combined forces.

LonelyBloggers

I agree that simply grabbing/scrubbing IP addresses is not an effective long-term solution.

Creating databases of 'suspected' scammers is definitely not easy to do as Markus suggests "is a clear privacy violation and who knows what other laws as it pertains to each country."

Scammers move fast enough that the effectiveness of a collective DB would help, but more trouble than it's probably worth (never mind ownership, and membership requirements).

Now I'm new to the dating industry (damn competitive) and maybe this has been tried or it's simply not feasible, but I used to work at an ISP and know that the carrier does burden some liability.. especially if they knowingly allow/aware illegal activities to happen on their networks.

In my short tenure in running a date site, it seems that especially the 'Nigerian Scam' that the same providers (portable IP blocks, satellite, wireless, others?)carry 95% of the illegal activity.

I see that RIPE.net (hundreds of search engine links about the same RIPE IP blocks being a key culprit) provides scammers the internet access to get their work done. Over and over again dating site owners are complaining about having to block huge IP ranges for traddic originating from RIPE. (I'm sure RIPE is one of hundreds)

From a legal perspective (for example), would an ISP not be found liable if you could show that they were previosly aware of the problems and did not take any measures to stop scammers from using their neyworks/services to conduct illegal activity?

I see dating sites spending hundreds of millions to acquire new customers, yet is anyone effectively dealing with their 'security' issues?

Before you say yes, I've done searches on the "same usernames" on 99% of competitive sites and there are numerous instances of bad sign-ups (some usernames have been there for years in some cases and use the same description).. So no one site is really 100% protected from this problem.

I would like to see the big dating sites that have the money to ..

1) document all incidents

2) collect extensive IP information to what providers are guilty of consistently providing the network access behind the scams

3) research any/all historical incidents, mentions in search engines, actual fraud cases and to what 'awareness of the problem is already realized' by the different providers

At some point, a provider must be held liable in who they sell their IP address blocks to... I note tracking people down in an internet cafe is NOT going to work...

You need to attack the source that is ultimately monetizing/profiting in the illegal activity. You sue the ISP from the top (telecom company, network providers) down to local or regional reseller.

Has this been tried? Do the larger dating sites have their legal departments already contact the same problematic network providers? Is this old news or is it simply not possible?

I don't care what you say, there is NO ISP on this planet that enjoys getting a court order or facing huge potential international lawsuits because their network was the access point for illegal activity. For example : If a provider is found with child pornography on their servers, you better believe they move fast to remove it (no matter what country they live in) ...

If the same ISPs are found (especially with historical precedent) of knowingly having criminals doing bad things using their services, could they not be at risk legally?

There is no DB that can effectively protect us. They'll find a new way to get at your valuable memberbase every single day because internet fraud is a multi-billion dollar industry! There's plenty of monetary incentive involved and no DB (no matter what tiered technology you provide) is going to stop the criminals.

I've got 300 members, so it's easy to check the IP of each new sign-up - but for you big guys.. That has to be costing ya alot of money no?

Is it not worth a call from your legal department to pass on a detailed report to all of the offending telecom providers?

Anyway I realize that this only addresses one of the fraud types, but using a similar approach will definitely work across the board - Sue the rich telecom providers and watch them tighten it up!

Am I crazy or has any dating site ever initiated these conversations already? If so, keep doing it every week and remind them that their networks are illegally profiting from crime and not protecting the public from these criminals.

The big dating sites and the established dating industry must realize the collective benefits of organizing a legal effort to stop the problem at the network level. $$$$

Zoltan

Sueing ISPs will not work. An ISP can not monitorize their clients activity unless they have a court order. Then, how could they find out that user X or Y is scamming some sites?
Well... if you notify the ISP, providing time and IP address, the ISP can easily find our that the client is Mr. X. But, the ISP will not block a paying client... I can assure you of this.

TheFraudKahuna

I would encourage you to look beyond IP addresses and start looking into device identification as a whole. It only takes me about 3-seconds change my IP address and revisit your site from a new geolocation/ISP (if few seconds longer if I really want to cover my tracks). If you want to chase a ghost, go right ahead.

Sam Moorcroft, ChristianCafe.com

I'm going to get flak for this, I'm sure, but if a site has figured out how to prevent 99% of all scammers from harassing its members, why would it share how it is doing this with the competition?

I understand the argument that scamming taints the entire industry, however, wouldn't this be a competitive advantage to keep its methods secret?

TheFraudKahuna

That is true, any site who develops a proprietary fraud technology and lowers their fraud rate would have a competitive advantage. However, you might consider what's happening over at the Merchant Risk Council http://www.merchantriskcouncil.org/. Your friends in eCom are finding that sharing fraud best practices and combining forces is a winning methodology. You might also want to evaluate the products that have emerged to help them combat these frauds.

Arshad Khan

Sharing a common database with banned IP addresses and perhaps usernames will be a good start to combat this problem.

Device authentic solution is not fool proof either as it relies on the specific machines previously being used for fraud and spamming. Culprits can easily use a different machine by simply going to an internet cafe.

So in short there is no perfect solution at this stage but we have to start from somewhere. Remember, solutions are refined over time. This may also involved lobbying the governments to make ISP responsible.

We at Club Intimate will be happy to share our banned IP list if other dating site owners are interested. If interested please drop us an email using our webmaster email address.

Steve Bywater

We talked about shared effort at iDate Miami 06. I still think it has merit -- somethings are easy to share and don't get into proprietary info.

At Cupid.com, we only advertise in the US and Canada, so we block IPs known to be from any other foreign country. We use http://ip-to-country.webhosting.info/node/view/6
for this data.

Also, I have no need to allow anyone who wants IP anonymity on my site, so we also block all IPs known to be associated with TOR, The Onion Router.

Commercial anonymizing services will gladly block their members from access your web site if you send them a request.

IPs are easy to change. MAC addresses can be spoofed but that is a good idea I hadn't thought of. But as soon as you block someone, you alert them of the need to change. The only thing that seems to limit scammers is time. So when considering a scammer strategy, devise methods that let them waste time without letting them know that they've been identified. They will learn that your site doesn't convert for them, and they will be motivated to try elsewhere.

scoremore

Used to justify their inexcusable actions in taking advantage of people for their own gain. I agree that the people who fall for these are pretty much always stupid people.. sometimes they are merely elderly, mentally challenged or generally bewildered.. that's not in debate.. The point is it doesn't justify capitalizing on their stupidity...

Andrew Wilson

It is hard for small businesses to work together, there is a natural reluctance to do so. There are legitimate dating businesses in Russia and Ukraine who share the same problems of fraud.
In my opinion the international dating business is reaching something of a crisis point and I wrote a report called 'Death of a Russian Bride' about what I have seen. The rprot can be found here: http://andrewwilsonnews.com and there are ongoing discussions in forums across the internet but in particular here: http://ruadventures.com/forum/index.php/topic,13322.0/topicseen.html
Check them out! Thanks.

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