Mishawaka, IN - In the search for true love, the popularity of Internet dating is booming.
Unfortunately, this popular way to date is also becoming a breeding ground for scam artists as one Mishawaka woman found out.
Online daters beware
Being a busy Bethel College assistant professor doesn't leave a lot of time for finding love.
"I was just looking like everybody else does," said Professor Angela Myers.
Like millions, Angela turned to the Internet to find that special someone.
"I actually had broken up with my boyfriend in November and started looking for something to make me feel like I'm still out there, I'm available, I'm active in looking for dating and that kind of thing," explains Angela.
That's when Angela came across this online dating service called, Executive Christian Dating.
"They were very good about saying you're not doing this out of desperation, your not doing this out of some crazy need, you're doing this as a step in life, that you want to find somebody to live your life with and that's a good thing and its worth the money to put forth," said Angela.
Before she paid any money to become a member, Angela did her homework first.
"By using these seals, I looked up these Internet standards," says Angela. She also called the company to get references from people who used the service.
"He said, 'well, because a lot of our clientele are very concerned about privacy, they didn't want their name to be used as a reference'. Ok. I guess that makes sense," Angela said.
Feeling confident this was a reputable dating service, Angela paid Executive Christian Dating just over $900 for a six-month membership to have a counselor match her interests with other clients.
"It was nice to sort of say, here's somebody who knows me and they're going to sort of do the filtering first," says Angela.
After that process started, Angela emailed her first match.
When she didn't get a response, Angela touched base with her counselor.
Angela says her counselor told her, "Well you need to remember that they may be out of town or something like that."
Feeling skeptical, Angela emailed her match in Goshen. She says, "His first response was that he had never heard of this Executive Christian Dating."
That was the same response from Angela's other profiles.
After days of no response from her possible matches, Angela received and email from her first match; However, she found out that the responders had never heard of Executive Christian Dating.
"Are you aware of this and he emailed back and said, 'no', he had been part of Yahoo Personals," explains Angela.Not getting the matches she paid for, Angela says she felt scammed by Executive Christian Dating. "I'm just a person looking to find a guy to spend my life with and these people are taking advantage of people like me -- who just are out there trying to do the best we can," she says.
NewsCenter 16 discovered Executive Christian Dating is taking advantage of others too. The Federal Trade Commission received 11 complaints this year.
"As far as we know, everybody who has sent money to these places have sent money, lost money and not gotten a date out of the deal," explains South Bend Fraud Investigator Dominic Zultanski. "A majority of them had dollar loss value complaints totaled up to over $11,500 dollars."Zultanski looked into Angela's case and found several red flags.
"They were using an almost anonymous way of transaction of money. They were then using an anonymous way of corresponding with them by mail and the only phone number that came back to them was in Canada," explains Zultanski.Executive Christian Dating also goes by other names based on people's preferences, including Executive Jewish Dating.
"There's no doubt in my mind there's many more victims then we even come close to knowing about," says Zultanski.
Calls and emails NewsCenter 16 made to Executive Christian Dating were not returned.
"Classically if you take it down to bare bones, it's nothing more than fraudsters finding something people would jump at or want to get immediately. Throw some bit of emotion in there, this case being love and making it sexy then next thing they do is they're going after your pocket book," says Zultanski.For Angela, it is a lesson in the hi-tech world of love she'd soon like to forget.
Online dating tips
However, we do have some advice to protect yourself in the world of Internet dating.
* Try not to pay too much money up front. Sign up for a couple of referrals, and if you're pleased, then pay for more.
* Choose a dating service that's been in business for a long time under the same owner.
* Find out if the dating service you're considering has had any complaints with the Better Business Bureau and your state's attorney general's office.
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