Rural Network Dating Agency – Stark Warning to Rural Online daters

Sun, Aug 3, 2008

Dating sites

Farmers and people living in rural areas of Australia have fallen for the oft used dating agency tricks to get them to part with their cash.

Some of these members have been conned out of up to £9,500 in their attempts to find a partner to love.

Living in a remote rural area of the UK I know it can be difficult and frustrating to find a long term relationship, the local village pub tends not to have a variety of new faces very often, if ever and many turn to the internet to find that special someone.

It may seem to city dwellers that you would have to be simply daft or incredibly desperate to pay so much money to find love but in reality most country folk aren’t look for casual dates, they want a lifetime partner.

The online dating agency, Rural Network based in Queensland, used the tagline “Bringing the Country Together” however many of their profiles were simply fakes produced by their staff.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which has been looking into the agency for the past three years, which does beg the question how did they get away with it for so long?

One of the most obvious tricks used is the email telling you someone suitable wants to communicate with you but of course you have to pay an extra fee to get in touch with them.

They also charged huge administration fees, in the region of £2000 for a two year membership. Don’t forget the service fees and the membership upgrade fees.

In the Times Online Anne Barrowclough in Sydney recounts one victims tale:

“I saw their webpage and put my details on there and I was signed up at their most basic membership. Over the next few weeks they contacted me numerous times telling me about different members I could meet, but only if I upgraded my membership each time. They also changed the story of what I was paying for.

Over the next few months he shelled out A$20,000.”

The Rural Network dating agency has been ordered to repay A$120,000 to it’s victims and has to write to all new customers about their “misleading and deceptive conduct” ….. like that was ever going to happen and the agency is back in court for not doing so.

Justice Jeffrey Spender failed to close the website down but said the agency’s conduct was “not only serious but calculated and quite callous” and imposed a 7 year restriction on their business practices.

However, until someone takes a real stand against these con artists online dating will always be a minefield.

Rural Network is still in operation with a site called Chances Consulting and the case is not due in court again until September.

I say this again and again, many online dating agencies fake profiles.It is so tempting to go to the ones that advertise thousands of members rather than ones with just hundreds in your area but the small ones are much more likely to have genuine like-minded people and when you do the maths your chances are increased on the smaller sites of actually meeting a good match.

My rural and countryside dating website is only for the UK but you can see that it has a clear pricing policy and the membership numbers, being a new site, are quite small. I could have paid $100 to have 500 fake profiles produced but chose not to con people ….. look for genuine sites that offer a good service for a reasonable price.

When you look for an online dating site follow these simple rules:

1. Choose one with clearly set out pricing policies.

2. Make sure they have a forum or chatroom, are you speaking to actual human beings?

3. Check out profiles before you sign up … do they sound too good to be true?

4. If you cancel your membership and suddenly get messages saying people want to communicate with you but you must rejoin and pay ….. delete them.

5. As soon as you join send messages to a few members asking how they like the site, not just the opposite sex.

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