Ashley Madison Isn't The Only Dating Site Using Fake Profiles

The truth about online dating sites and your love life.

secretive woman Volodymyr TVERDOKHLIB / Shutterstock

You might remember the news in 2015 that thousands and thousands of fake women's profiles filled the subscriber database of the online dating site for cheaters, Ashley Madison. It happened right around the time the site's clients were victimized by a huge, notorious data breach.

So, almost a decade ago, we already knew that online dating sites practiced business tactics that were as cynical as they were deceitful. 


I can vouch for that, as I joined the Ashley Madison site as part of an undercover investigation into the real-world reasons why women cheat, and it took a tremendous amount of outreach to connect with real women. Six weeks of looking and waiting resulted in 33 chat sessions and only three "dates" — and I live in a major metropolitan area — so I was not surprised by the fakery.

Fake user profiles are business-as-usual for online dating sites and apps, in general — not just Ashley Madison. The truth is, these sites and businesses aren't motivated to match anyone. 

Why? Because, if they actually match you (as their clever ads claim they can), you'll meet someone and stop dating — meaning you will stop paying for and using their services. And in the online dating industry, that's bad for business.


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Fake profiles proliferate and prevent more matches

Ashley Madison, at its core, is nothing more than an online dating site — albeit one created to encourage infidelity. You fill out a profile, upload a few pictures, and get matched up with other like-minded people looking to connect.

Companies tend to base online dating profiles on questionnaires of varying lengths, but they all focus on looking to connect with people based on likes, dislikes, behaviors, and personal interests. The technology and matching algorithm behind these online sites supposedly does the hard work of analyzing profiles and matching people with commonalities.


Think about it: If everyone fills out a multi-question compatibility survey (upwards of 200 questions in some cases), chances are decent that at least some commonalities exist between nearly everyone. 

However, if the science and algorithms these sites tout are so good at matching people, why would anyone have to pay a yearly fee every year to find someone with whom they "click?" The answer is simple: The business of online dating is just that: business, not love.

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Facts from a source who knows

To validate my hypothesis, I connected with a senior consulting programmer who assisted in creating the "compatibility algorithms" at a number of online dating sites.


According to my source, it costs the average dating site approximately $120 to generate a new customer. In the online subscription services market, they refer to this as the "Cost of User Acquisition." It includes the fees associated with advertising, promotion, sales bonuses, transaction fees, and more.

The thing is, if the monthly fee is only $20 a month, the dating site needs to keep customers using their services (meaning: unmatched and looking for love) for at least six months, just to break even. To show a profit, they need to keep customers unmatched even longer. According to the programmer, this is how it's done:

"When a new subscriber completes their online questionnaire and profile, the site's technology matches them up with compatible potentials, and the subscriber is shown a selection of matched profiles. However, although the algorithm is capable of matching based on compatibility, only one of the profiles shown is actually a match based on their algorithm; the others are either random profiles of other users or fake profiles entirely.

If the subscriber doesn't happen to click on the profile generated from the algorithm and instead selects one of the other randomly generated profiles, the algorithm shuts off for the next four to five months in an effort to recoup the cost of acquiring that subscriber. It's been done like this for years, and is the way the business works."


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Fake profiles are the norm, not the exception

Truthfully, the only reason Ashley Madison was under fire for being one of the dating sites using fake profiles (aside from their position on fidelity in marriage) is that people hacked into their customer database and combed through their user profiles.

I'd love to see what would happen if some of the mainstream dating sites had their user profile data looked over with a microscope the way Ashley Madison's profile data is currently being scrutinized. I'm certain fake profiles would surface on almost all of them. 


Sure, there are instances of people meeting successfully on an online dating site and falling madly in love. But those cases are seemingly the exception, not the norm. And now we know why.

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Charles J. Orlando is a bestselling author and relationship/interpersonal relations expert who has spent the last 10+ years connecting with thousands of people.