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How to avoid dating service ripoffs

“Would your mother want you to be single?”

That’s the question that convinced Jean, who was considering joining a local dating service, to sign up. The saleswoman had pushed just the right button.

But things weren’t right from the start. Jean had signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry, and when she inquired how the service got her number, Jean was told they were referred by a friend. (The person Jean assumed gave the service her number later told her he did not.) The service kept badgering Jean, and she agreed to meet in person with the saleswoman.

It got worse at the meeting. Jean’s had father passed away when she was 8, and she is also a divorcee. The saleswoman told Jean that she had abandonment issues. Jean signed up and give them an up-front fee of $2,000.

“I never met a more aggressive salesperson,” Jean told Team Fixer.

The saleswoman assured Jean she would find her perfect match in four dates.

The first man Jean contacted never got back to her, and the second man was an engineer and a diehard NASCAR fan – not her type at all. He also was older than the maximum age limit she had set.

For $2,000, Jean went on only that one date.

Unfortunately, Jean is not alone. Complaints about dating services abound. Consumers need to make sure that while they’re looking for love, they’re also looking out for their pocketbook.

To avoid a dating service rip-off, do your homework, says Steve Bernas, president of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois:

• Use the internet to research the dating service

• Watch for signs of poor customer service and never feel pressured to sign a deal. Take your time deciding.

• Be aware that even if a customer finds a mate, the contract still exists. You may be on the hook for continued monthly fees.

Bernas cautioned that contracts for dating services are meant to protect the company, not the consumer. Be wary of unscrupulous sales people who make promises to get you to sign up – but won’t back them up in writing.

Jean says she was given a contract, but it was lengthy with lots of small type. She was in a hurry to get to a job interview so she didn’t read it carefully.

Illinois does offer some protections to consumers. Under state law, there’s a three-day right to cancel dating service contracts.

It would have applied in Jean’s case, according to Maura Possley, deputy press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – but

unfortunately, Jean didn’t realized she’d been ripped off under after three days had passed.

(Note: Under federal law, consumers can cancel door-to-door sales contracts within three days. Illinois law further extends that three-day window of protection to campground memberships, health club contracts and dating services. All other contracts take effect immediately.)

Jean’s story had a happier experience using another dating service and her sister even married a man she man through a dating service.

But Jean wishes she had been more careful: “You have moments when you’re vulnerable to predators like this,” Thankfully, she says, “I had the money to pay for it.”

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