Over the course of the four years Jenny has been on the site, not one of the men she met has been a member of where she originally posted her profile. Alarmingly, half were not parents at all and only one had a child the same age as her son.
Worse still, her picture and profile have been plastered across tawdry dating websites belonging to ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts and Loaded that are more associated with scantily-clad girls in semi-pornographic poses than professional, middle-aged women like Jenny.
Members on any of these sites can apply filters to ensure they are not contacted by anyone they don’t want to be.Describing her interests as ‘going to the theatre and restaurants, enjoying country walks as long as they feature a tea shop’, she was hopeful she would meet mature, like-minded men who understood the difficulties of bringing up a child alone.What she didn’t expect was to find herself posted as a ‘hot date’ on cheesy lads’ magazine sites, and bombarded by spam emails from people who didn’t even exist — or if they did, had anything but a country walk in mind.Unbeknown to Jenny, justsingle is run by a parent company called Global Personals — a legitimate company most members never will have heard of, but which passes members’ details freely between the 7,500 sites it owns, meaning they are inundated with unwanted and inappropriate advances.The company has also created ‘fake’ profiles, by lifting photographs off the internet, and ordering staff to flirt with unsuspecting members, outrageously flattering them into renewing their subscriptions.‘One, a store manager, had joined a website called Old Flirt. They came from geographical and rock music dating sites. One didn’t even know I had a son, which was the whole point.He was my age but, had I known the site he was on, I would have hauled him out on the grounds that it was a ridiculous name. It made me think my profile might have been edited.‘But I’m shocked by how many sites I’ve ended up on. Certainly, Jenny’s experience serves as a cautionary tale to those tempted by the increasingly popular world of online romance, said to be worth £2 billion globally.She first started internet dating in September 2008, eight months after her seven-year marriage ended. With membership costing £20 a month and members all purportedly having experienced single parenthood, she was more likely to meet like-minded people, she reasoned.‘You’d ask a man a question, such as how many children he had, and would get a reply tell you how happy they are they’ve met you.’She adds: ‘You don’t realise to start with that these companies they have “ice breaker” messages saying “I like your profile” or “you’ve got a lovely smile” that are sent to all the women in East Sussex between the ages of 35 and 55. After a while you realise a lot of the messages you get are sent to hundreds of people, not just you.’‘I remember one email I got that persuaded me to re-join was from a good-looking, wealthy single father who ran his own building business,’ says Jenny.‘Part of me suspected it was too good to be true, but I replied anyway.’ And, surprise surprise, she never heard back.‘I only met most of them once, for a drink,’ she says.