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Global Times US Edition - - CHINA -

Matchmaking sites have been un­der at­tack in re­cent days over the ve­rac­ity of users’ in­for­ma­tion, fol­low­ing a high-pro­file case in which a young en­tre­pre­neur com­mit­ted sui­cide af­ter be­ing al­legedly scammed by his ex-wife he met on a dat­ing site.

Sun Xiang­mao, 37, jumped to death off his Bei­jing home on Septem­ber 7 af­ter re­ceiv­ing re­peated threats from his ex-wife, Zhai Xinxin, who was al­legedly de­mand­ing more than 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.5 mil­lion) and prop­er­ties af­ter their one-month mar­riage.

The cou­ple met on ji­ayuan.com, a pop­u­lar matchmaking site, on March 30. In Su’s sui­cide note, he wrote that he and Zhai were VIP mem­bers of the site and had their iden­ti­ties ver­i­fied by the ad­min­is­tra­tors. But Zhai’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing her birth date and mar­i­tal sta­tus were false.

Ji­ayuan con­firmed on its Weibo ac­count on Septem­ber 10 that Su, founder of call ap­pli­ca­tion WePhone, and Zhai were mem­bers of the site and had gone through the ver­i­fi­ca­tion process. The com­pany said it will co­op­er­ate with the po­lice investigation.

China now has over 200 mil­lion sin­gle­tons and the coun­try’s dat­ing sites gen­er­ated 3.4 bil­lion yuan of rev­enue in 2016, the Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to open court cases, dat­ing sites are fre­quently in­volved in frauds in which mem­bers post fake in­for­ma­tion to bilk others out of money.

While dat­ing sites en­cour­age mem­bers to sub­mit real in­for­ma­tion, they are in­ca­pable of ver­i­fy­ing most users’ claims as mem­bers can eas­ily al­ter their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

Mr Right or Mr Wrong

Any­one with a valid cell phone num­ber can regis­ter on ji­ayuan.com in less than a minute.

The Global Times re­porter faked their name, age, ed­u­ca­tional back­ground and mar­i­tal sta­tus, and clicked “I prom­ise” on a pop up which listed two con­di­tions users should abide by.

The two con­di­tions are promis­ing not lend money to other mem­bers and re­fus­ing one-night stands.

Ji­ayuan says its to­tal mem­ber­ship has grown from 30,000 to 170 mil­lion since the site was founded in 2003.

One day af­ter be­com­ing a mem­ber, the Global Times re­porter re­ceived more than 120 pri­vate mes­sages sent by users, the ma­jor­ity of whom had not had their iden­ti­ties ver­i­fied. One’s ID card in­for­ma­tion is one of the seven ver­i­fy­ing items ji­ayuan. com re­quires, which also include a mail­ing ad­dress, phone num­ber, aca­demic back­ground, prop­er­ties and mar­i­tal sta­tus, and the re­lated cer­tifi­cates and doc­u­ments are submitted by mem­bers vol­un­tar­ily. A Ji­ayuan cus­tomer ser­vice em­ployee told the Global Times re­porter pos­ing as a mem­ber that the ID in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by users is ver­i­fied by the Chaoyang district in­ter­net po­lice. “But all the other in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing mar­i­tal sta­tus, prop­er­ties and em­ploy­ment can­not be ver­i­fied. We sug­gest mem­bers make friends care­fully,” the em­ployee said. Mean­while, cus­tomers are en­cour­aged to report sus­pected fraud or pros­ti­tu­tion to the site, which will then report of­fend­ers to Bei­jing po­lice. Mem­bers in­volved in ei­ther of these things will be banned from us­ing the site again, the em­ployee said. How­ever, sev­eral Bei­jing me­dia out­lets have re­ported that fake and al­tered ID in­for­ma­tion can get through the Ji­ayuan ver­i­fi­ca­tion process. Other pop­u­lar Chi­nese dat­ing sites, such as baihe.com and zhenai.com, do not re­quire real name reg­is­tra­tion. All the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is pro­vided by users.

Fraud cases in­volv­ing dat­ing sites have been re­ported widely. A man who pre­tended to be a po­lice of­fi­cer and posted fake in­for­ma­tion on ji­ayuan.com was able to de­fraud two women out of 140,000 yuan. He was sen­tenced to two years in prison by Bei­jing No.1 In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court in 2015, news site thep­a­per.cn re­ported.

Shoul­der re­spon­si­bil­ity

Liu Xiaomei, a mar­riage lawyer at Bei­jing Yingke Law Firm, told the Global Times that dat­ing sites have ne­glected their du­ties, as they are re­spon­si­ble for ver­i­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by its mem­bers.

The Cy­berspace Ad­min­is­tra­tion of China (CAC) launched a cam­paign in 2015 tar­get­ing dat­ing sites which are in­volved in fraud and il­le­gal op­er­a­tions. The CAC shut down 128 dat­ing sites and or­dered 20 more to sus­pend busi­ness and go through rec­ti­fi­ca­tion, the Bei­jing Youth Daily re­ported.

“But in prac­tice, dat­ing sites have no right to vet de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, such as mar­i­tal sta­tus, as­sets, em­ploy­ment, as it in­volves peo­ple’s pri­vacy and the rel­e­vant de­part­ments in­clud­ing the civil af­fairs bureau and hous­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion will not share the in­for­ma­tion,” Liu said, adding that a bet­ter method may be re­quir­ing mem­bers to pro­vide doc­u­ments no­ta­rized by the re­lated de­part­ments.

If Su’s ex-wife is con­victed of fraud for pro­vid­ing fake in­for­ma­tion to Ji­ayuan, the dat­ing web­site is likely to com­pen­sate Su’s fam­ily and the ad­min­is­tra­tive depart­ment may or­der the site to up­grade its iden­tity ver­i­fi­ca­tion process, Liu said.

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