A Florida model on Friday slapped Match.com with a $1.5 billion class-action lawsuit accusing the Internet-dating giant and affiliated websites of posting thousands of fake profiles – including many by Hollywood celebrities and other hotties – to defraud lonely hearts seeking a special someone.
The trademark-infringement suit was filed in Manhattan federal court by Yuliana Avalos, who claims photos of her have been used without consent in at least 200 fake profiles posted on Match.com and other websites run by co-defendant IAC/InterActiveCorp of Manhattan.
“Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t tell me that they saw my pictures posted on Match.com or another web site,” said the sexy Avalos, a Florida-based mother and part-time model.
The suit alleges that an “extensive investigation” of complaints by hundreds of potential class-action members showed the websites’ subscribers are routinely being “scammed” out of user fees by “criminals” working out of Internet cafes overseas in Nigeria, Ghana and Russia. It claims thousands – if not millions – of photos pirated off the Internet are being posted as false ads in the form of fake profiles.
Match.com, for example, charges users $35.99 monthly for standard service.
“The tragedy of this case is two-fold as the American victims of internet fraud on defendants’ sites, (estimated to be at least thousands), mostly widows, widowers, and divorcees age 50 and over, have been defrauded out of as much as hundreds of millions of dollars over the past six-plus years through fraudulent dating profiles on the defendants’ sites, and those of its competitors,” the suit says.
“In addition to the financial and emotional toll, these scams destroy relationships, families, and result in suicides, abductions and murder of victims in foreign countries.”
The fake profiles – include “Hollywood celebrities” and photographs “pirated from Facebook and modeling agencies, as well as photographs of military serviceman and women.”
None of the “celebrities” are identified in the suit – except by user names for accounts that are no longer active. Avalos’ lawyer Evan Spencer declined to name the celebs but confirmed he hasn’t reached out to any of them about potentially joining the suit.
Martha Stewart and Joan Rivers are among the celebrities who’ve reportedly tried Match.com. A-list knockout Halle Berry has also turned to dating websites for Mr. Right.
The suit seeks $1 billion in punitive damages and $500 million in compensatory damages for non-members whose photographs were wrongly used by the dating sites. It also seeks a court order mandating the sites screen international IP addresses from posting domestic profiles in the United States.
Messages left with representatives of IAC and Match.com were not immediately returned.
IAC and its 25 dating websites gross about $350 million yearly, the suit says.
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