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October 14, 2011

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Online love sites lack scrutiny

THE online matchmaking market in Shanghai is chaotic because of a lack of regulation, local Internet management authorities said yesterday.

Because some matchmaking websites have loose standards for who is allowed to register at the sites, swindlers are able to take advantage and make money from gullible daters.

The Shanghai Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center plans to draft a rule for the industry that will regulate matchmaking websites, and their staff will be included in a real-name registration system. The project is expected to start this winter, officials said.

The center said it receives one or two complaints a week about matchmaking websites.

"Most of the people said their money was taken by someone they knew on the websites," said Ma Haiyong, director of the center. "Some women even said they met some personal danger."

Swindlers can pass a website's sign-up requirements with only a fake identity card. In 2008, a man surnamed Yang defrauded five women from different provinces and cities of more than 400,000 yuan (US$62,676).

His first target was a 35-year-old woman from Shanghai. Yang chatted with the woman, surnamed Zhao, on the Internet for more than 10 days, then asked for a date in person.

After gaining Zhao's trust on their first date, Yang asked Zhao frequently if he could borrow money. He tried to get more than 140,000 yuan from the woman.

When he found Zhao was no longer of value to him, he changed his cell phone number, and turned to his next target.

He was not arrested until the sixth woman saw through his trick and called the police.

The center said lack of regulation is the main problem. This May, the city issued standards on the matchmaking industry, but only for brick-and-mortar matchmaking companies.

"Now we can only remind websites to strengthen verification of their clients, but can't take action on them," said Ma.

"But if we receive complaints, we pass them to relevant governmental departments, such as industrial and commercial authorities, to deal with them."


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