Published: 30th July 2013
I’m sure that many of you will remember my interview with Sarah Smith, Business Correspondent for Channel Four News last November, a snippet on camera as I sought to help expose the truly immoral practice of Global Personals, an online dating company that I had previously worked for. On the back of that appearance I spoke live to an audience on an Irish radio breakfast show, answering questions and giving my opinion on internet dating and advice on how people really do need to be very careful and vigilant when signing up to these types of websites.
Six months later and you’d be forgiven if you thought that things had come to an end, particularly as you haven’t heard much about it from me since. If that was your assumption, then you’d be wrong, very wrong. My fight for justice on behalf of tens of thousands of consumers is only just beginning.
My motive for uncovering how my former boss Ross Williams made his millions, in what was often ill-gotten money through the use of pseudo activity on his online dating platform, has most definitely changed. At first it was more out of resentment, because I believe that he lead me a merry dance and didn’t live up to his career defining promises. My feelings then turned to hatred; on the back of an innocently written article that I had typed-up last year, over two years since I’d departed his offices at Minton Place, he instructed one of his cronies, Financial Director Darren Damiano, to call me and threaten me with legal action if I didn’t remove it, or at least reword some of it. Pretty harsh words for a relatively small time blogger to hear, particularly as the article wasn’t overly damning, or in fact heavily critical whatsover.
It was then that Channel Four got involved. This was a perfect excuse for me to have a top legal team to look over my old work contract to see if Global Personals would have a case against me for any piece of writing that I had included their name in, and/or if I were to take part in a feature for C4 News. It just so happened to be that my contract wasn’t worth toffee, never mind the piece of paper it was written on.
Having thought long and hard about things, my real reason for wanting to continue this fight has nothing to with Ross, or Global Personals at all. It’s about the total lack of transparency within the industry. I want to dig even deeper.
On the evening of Monday 30th July, BBC Panorama aired Tainted Love: Secrets of the Online Dating Game. A programme molded together by BBC Scotland in which reporter Fiona Walker investigates how unscrupulous websites prey on those looking for love.
The programme primarily focused on Edinburgh based Cupid Plc, where upon inspection it appeared that Cupid were creating fake profiles (pseudos) and messaging members in a bid to entice them to sign up. Evidence suggests that they ran their fake message practice from the Ukraine.
On fake messaging Cupid Plc issued the following statement, “Considering the industry wide problems with scammers – it is likely that this is the cause.” But if you check out the Cupid.com website, under the header Services in their Terms and Conditions they quite clearly state:-
“Cupid creates user profiles for use by our customer support representative for the support, marketing and improvement of the Services, CUPID’s customer support representatives are encouraged to speak to members and also stimulate conversation between members by making introductions and recommendations.”
This open admission of guilt on their very own website means Cupid Plc left themselves wholly exposed. They have been well and truly caught with their pants wrapped around their ankles.
I, myself, appeared on the programme to discuss the pseudo’s and fake member correspondence that Global Personals used to engage in, I must add that this was not in a bid to expose the company, because it appears that they stopped using pseudos some time ago [edit: questionable upon further/ongoing research], this piece was designed to lay bare the point that there are still many, many online dating sites that use them and who are effectively conning the paying member.
I did uncover some further dirt on Global Personals but unfortunately I failed to screen shot the page in which Marital Affair (a partner site of Global Personals) claimed to have a fairly even gender mass. When I checked the FAQ’s section on Marital Affair on May 14th this year they had a question in their FAQ’s section of the site, and it read, “Q: Are there an even amount of Male to Female members? A: The ratio of Men to Women at present is 6 to 4.” I tweeted my findings, but remarkably less than one week later they had removed this from their website.
This was a very bold statement [definitely a lie] by Marital Affair, a site that operates on the adult network (for those members looking to get down to naughty business), especially seeing that most general network sites (for those that are seeking friendship and companionship) would kill to have a 60:40 men-to-women ratio. When I worked for Global Personals the adult network was operating on a swing of around 92:2 at best (hence the female-only pseudo activity) and no matter what marketing ploy you try out, there is absolutely no way on God’s earth that you would see a great oscillation away from those figures. The truth of the matter is; women just aren’t attracted to adult network sites – even if you hand them over membership for free.
So my question to Ross Williams, the owner of Global Personals, would be: how does the adult network run itself without any pseudos? It’s near on impossible to generate revenue for themselves or their partner sites without having fake women troll the site.
To those of you that have their eyes wide-open and are not naive enough to believe everything you see online as gospel and were already aware of pseudos and fake messaging. I’ll now touch upon a couple of other pointers that I’d ask you to consider.
The BBC also reported that they found 198 women’s profiles within a tiny hamlet in the Hebrides which has fewer than 100 inhabitants. Global Personals blamed this on North American scammers. Since when have scammers operated from the wealthy continent of North America? Never! Scammers are typically found spread across poorer parts of the world such as Eastern Europe and West Africa.
Online dating sites have been trying to combat scammers for years now, but you’ll notice whenever there’s a little bit of heat pressed on these websites, whenever you ask them to explain the unexplainable the first and only thing that they will blame is scammers. How very convenient.
This past week has seen Global Personals calling for an “inclusive” industry body – a body that would likely have closed the business down 3-5 years ago.
Global Personals should not be commended for this one bit, Whilst the company was building its foundation it conned (or should I say scammed) the consumer out of millions of pounds across several years. It is my belief that they, along with every other site that has ever and still use pseudos and bogus messaging, should be heavily fined and be made to pay back their customers – if and where possible. Unless these companies are made an example of then it’ll just keep on happening. The evidence stacked up against many large online dating practices is frightening and they shouldn’t be seen to be above the law.
After my Channel Four News appearance last November I faced a barrage of online abuse from Global Personals staff – a leopard cannot change its spots – as once again I fell victim to some sickening digs aimed at me from their employees. Here’s just one example that I screen-shot [please excuse the coarse language]:-
Allow me to give the introductions. I believe the charming Emma Inniss still works on the Customer Service team and Jessica Buckland (who ‘liked’ this rather disgusting post) is also an employee. But don’t let this fool you – I’m sure they are both very friendly people. Global Personals will be proud of you both, along with Brad Haverly who’s now apparently an advocate of the C word – he’s in Finance. I would just like to add that I am not Emma’s mate either.
Shaunna – who was the receptionist – at Global Personals posted this:-
Grammatically her sentence is highly offensive on the eyes, I know, but my question to Shaunna would be, why would you ever think that I am bitter? It was I who made the decision to leave Global Personals three years ago and content with the way my career has progressed ever since. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Miss. Woodley – I was very touched to hear of her concern.
I hope you all enjoyed the show! Until the next time – or until justice is fully served – I’m outta’ here.
If you would like to discuss this topic further then feel free to contact me via Twitter, @RyanPitcher.