These Online Dating Scams Will Make You Think Twice About Paying For a Site
But I had no idea how professional these fake profile operations were until I saw a recent interview with a Japanese man who was paid to string other guys along on online dating sites with manipulative, psychologically-based messages.
Yes, you just read that last sentence correctly.
In Japan, these individuals are called “Sakuras,” and they're named after the audience members that were historically planted in kabuki performances to gin up excitement among the rest of the crowd.
Now the word refers to people (mostly guys) paid to pose as attractive, eligible women online and message back and forth with their clueless male “marks” in some of the most sophisticated, corporate online dating scams you'll ever see.
…and only one real female member.
For what it's worth, RocketNews describe Asakura as “a disarmingly friendly and unassuming man in his 30s”:
Interviewer: So how did you get started working as a sakura?
Asakura: They advertise for sakura in the regular employment magazines that have part-time job listings. The ads don’t just come out and say they’re looking for sakura, though. Instead, they say things like “data entry” and “sending company emails. I saw an ad, sent in an application, and they hired me.
Interviewer: What kind of people work as sakura?
Asakura: Surprisingly, they’re just ordinary people. The average age is young, with most in their mid-20s or younger. When I was working as a sakura, one of my supervisors was actually still in college.
Interviewer: We imagine the pay must be pretty good.
Asakura: It’s usually about 1,000 to 1,200 an hour (roughly US$9-$11). The job doesn’t require any physical labor, but I don’t think the pay actually accounts for the psychological strain of having to continuously lie to so many people.
I had no idea that “catfishing” had gone so corporate!
The interview alternates between a “tortured” Asakura who seems pained to have lied to so many unsuspecting customers, and one who was relentlessly driven by the desire to meet the aggressive standards set by his corporate masters.
Interviewer: What was especially difficult about the job?
Asakura: Haha a lot of things!
Hilarious! Of course!
Asakura: For example, during training, of course your supervisor checks the emails you’re sending to clients very closely. I was pretending to be a woman and putting everything I could think of into my emails to try to make guys attracted to me, but the supervisor training me was a young woman, and I didn’t like having her read what I’d written. You also have a minimum number of emails you have to send each hour, and it’s a tough quota to meet.
That takes some big stones on the part of these sites–not only do they defraud their customers using a veritable army of guys like Sakura, but they want to make sure they hit high hourly quotas for messages.
The implication of course is that some of the most “desired” women on the site were guys like Asakura, frantically wooing lonely guys with message…after message…after message…
So Why Did This Company Defraud Millions of Customers With Fake Profiles and Messages of Unattainable Women?
The same as always: money!
More specifically, outright fraud on the part of this dating site, which opted to string their paying customers along with the promise of more female attention if they'd just keep their membership another month…
Asakura: The most effective method of sending emails was to time it so that you’d agree to meet with a client around the time his membership with the site was about to run out, so that’d he’d renew it. But then, on the day you were supposed to meet, you’d have to think up some excuse as to why you couldn’t make it to the date…It’s tiring having to think up lies simultaneously for several different clients, all the while having your email log checked by your supervisors.
So tiring! I guess it never crossed his mind to use the same excuse for a few different poor suckers “clients”?
If it was so bad, then why did this guy stick around?
Asakura: For me, the best part was the flexible hours. At the time, there were other things I wanted to do besides work, so I wanted a job where I could set my own schedule.
Also, tough working conditions makes for a lot of camaraderie between coworkers. When a client I’d agreed to meet up with but later cancelled on sent me an email to start chatting again, my friends and bosses would congratulate me on doing a good job.
I think it's funny that the guy providing validation to desperate customers wanted nothing more than validation from his superiors. Oh sweet irony!
Unsurprisingly, given how “official” this operation seems like it was, a lot of the messages focused on well-established, scientific, psychological principles.
Interviewer: Was it interesting work?
Asakura: Well, when a client stops emailing you, you have to think of how to reestablish a connection with him. It’s a lot harder than making the initial contact, and we even had a manager who just handled helping sakura with that aspect of the job.
Analyzing what kind of email you can send to reel a customer back in, looking at that deep part of human psychology, that was interesting.
I guess I shouldn't be shocked at anything at this point.
If there's any sort of silver lining to this story, at least it has a relatively happy ending:
Interviewer: Why did you eventually stop working as a sakura?
Asakura: I didn’t want to stop, but one day when I showed up at work, the office was completely empty. No people, no desks, nothing. I’d just been at work the day before, but everything had disappeared in one night.
I thought I must be imagining things. Did my boss forget to tell me they were moving and give me the new address? Did I get fired? Did the company go belly-up?
Even now, I’ve got no idea.
Between sakuras and bots, you have to be extremely careful these days to not get caught up in one of the many online dating scams.
Honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if some of the more “reputable” sites out there in the U.S. were doing the exact same thing.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the only sure way to know who you're meeting is to meet her in real life.
Go out to places where your “type” of women tends to congregate. Here are a bunch to get you started.
If you do use apps and online sites to meet women and you're interested, set up a meet up somewhere to make sure she's who she says she is.
Or just keep the conversation online and chat with a guy like Mr. Asakura while the company he works for tries to empty your wallet.
It's your choice…