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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.
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.