Anyone who has ever been on a date knows that dating rituals are all about false advertising. “No, I don’t mind doing the dishes after dinner.” “I have a great relationship with my family.” “Oh please, let me get the check.”
But earlier this week, we were treated to a new twist on a modern dating disaster when a lovelorn (and now broke) New Yorker filed a lawsuit against OKCupid after he was conned out of $70K by a man he met on the dating website. Michael Z. Picciano’s complaint alleges that if OKCupid really was “the best free dating site on Earth” (as it advertises), then it wouldn’t allow a scammer by the likes of “genuineguy62” to use its services and swindle a trusting member of the OKCupid community out of tens of thousands of dollars.
Picciano alleges that OKCupid (and parent company IAC) failed to conduct “even minimal screening of its subscribers and therefore deceptively creating the impression that their dating service was safe…when in fact…[it] was a trap for the unwary.” He says that OKCupid “failed to exercise reasonable care” in communicating “the dangers associated with online matchmaking.”
Though these arguments are given a new context in online matchmaking, they might sound a bit familiar. The FTC and CFPB have been making similar cases lately against payment processors, media, and other service providers in the chain – holding parties responsible for monitoring the actions of those who they do business with. Perhaps in this regard, Mr. Picciano is taking a page out of the federal government’s playbook on vicarious liability with his suit to reduce the arrows in OKCupid’s quiver.
But Picciano would have been well-served to pay more attention to the government’s notices about online dating schemes. Just before Valentine’s Day, the FTC issued a warning to people looking for love online to “look out for warning signs of a scam, such as any request for money for any reason, and any mention of wiring money.” Around the same time, the FBI released a press release reminding people that criminals use dating sites too – and scammers are more than happy to cash in on the trust of hopeless romantics online. So, Mr. Picciano, whatever the backstory for your claim against OKCupid, remember the learned words of Ms. Benatar: love is a battlefield.