It’s a scenario familiar to anyone who has tried internet dating. You contact someone who appears attractive in their photos, only to discover they’re not quite so alluring in person.
But the founder of one of Britain’s biggest dating website has now decided to take radical action to root out fake and sleazy profiles - after revealing that many of the “women” who use the hook-ups section of his site are actually men in disguise.
Writing to members on Monday, Markus Frind, the Canadian founder of Plenty of Fish (POF), said that he had been forced to make a series of changes to its membership rules because too many male users are harassing women for sex.
The entrepreneur said that he had decided to scrap the “Intimate Encounters” option on the POF site due to complaints from some of its female users suffering unwanted attention.
In a message sent to all members, he said that only 6,041 of the 3.3 million people who use the site every day are in fact women looking for no-strings-attached trysts – adding “the ones with hot pictures are mostly men pretending to be women.”
The computer systems graduate who founded the website - which now has a turnover of more than $10m (£6.6m) a year - in 2003, said he now wants it to now focus on ‘meaningful relationships.’
Mr Frind said: “When I created POF, I wanted it to be all about finding relationships with the right person. For the first seven years, this worked really well, I got the site to 10 million users without any employees and PoF was generating a ton [sic] of relationships”
But Frind said he would now be making changes, adding: “Intimate Encounters on POF can be summed up as a bunch of horny men talking to a bunch of horny men pretending to be women.”
In other changes he has curtailed users from contacting members where there are age gaps of 14 or more years. “There is no reason for a 50 year old man to contact 18-year-old women. The majority of messages sent outside those age ranges are all about hook-ups,” he wrote.
He added that an estimated two per cent of male members had “started to use POF as more of a hook-up site mostly due to the casual nature of mobile phone use,” following the increasing popularity of smart phone apps among the site’s users.
With over 55 million members world-wide and some 24 million messages sent every day, Plenty of Fish’s free-to-use membership has made it the most popular internet dating website in the UK and the US since it was founded in 2003. Mr Frind also recently boasted an estimated one million babies will have been born because of people connecting through his website.
One 21-year-old female user told The Independent she joined PoF because she was intrigued after a number of her friends had been using it. She started dating online with the hope of eventually beginning a relationship.
Instead, she was bombarded with sexually explicit photos and messages: “I used to get all sorts emailing me, asking to be my slave and asking for sex. I met my boyfriend on there and we have been dating since August, so my general impressions are mixed. You can meet some decent people but I wouldn’t use it again, it seems people just want casual fun.”
Case study: 'Some of the pictures were hilarious... guys just wanted to hook-up for sex'
'Emma', 29, from London
“I joined PoF in August last year and immediately started talking to guys online. Once I had spoken to them for some time and felt comfortable enough, I would exchange phone numbers. But once I did, I would be bombarded with pictures of willies and all sorts.
"Some of them were so hilarious, I had to show the girls in the office. At first I was really shocked by it, but it happened so often, it just became laughable.
"I wouldn’t say I’m very attractive, but I was getting about 53 emails a day from men which would be alerted to on my phone. Sometimes I would get the alerts at three in the morning, from men telling me their wife wanted to have a threesome.
"I’ve since warned my female friends not to go on the site because guys basically just want to hook-up for sex. I probably went on five actual dates in total and only one of them was normal.
"But, ironically, both my mum and my brother have both met their partners on PoF and got married.”