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Online Dating Firms Agree to Screen for Sex Offenders

The screenings were agreed to after a woman was sexually assaulted by a man she met through Match.com. He had a prior conviction for a sexual assault, according to the state officials.

Three online dating services have agreed to screen for sex offenders and other criminals seeking to prey on users of the sites in the wake of the sexual assault of a Los Angeles-area woman by a man she met through one of the providers, the state attorney general's office announced Tuesday.

The joint agreement between Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks, operator of such websites as JDate and ChristianMingle, states that the companies will check subscribers against national sex offender registries and provide a rapid abuse reporting system for members.

The screening system, which has already gone into effect, ensures that any member who is identified as a registered sex offender will be prohibited from using the services, Harris said.

The websites will also continue to warn members about safe online dating practices, and will supply members with online safety tips, including fraud prevention guidance and tips for safely meeting people offline.

The tips and financial scam warnings will be issued on an ongoing basis to registered members, Harris said.

"I commend these companies for committing to these important consumer protections,'' she said. "Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted. It is a priority for this office to ensure consumers are protected online, and companies who are creating in the Internet space have a continued opportunity to innovate and thrive.''

The websites will continue their efforts to screen members for safety threats, whether financial or physical, using a number of protective tools, including looking for fake profiles and checking sex offender registries to prevent registered sex offenders from using their fee-based services, according to the AG's office.

Last August, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a man she met on Match.com settled a lawsuit against the Internet dating service, which agreed to screen members against state and federal sex offender registries, and went public about her ordeal.

Carole Markin was assaulted by Alan Paul Wurtzel, who pleaded no contest to sexual assault and had prior convictions. Wurtzel was sentenced last September to a year in jail for attacking Markin, another year in a program for sex offenders and ordered to register as a sex offender.

Markin sued Match.com after she did an Internet search and found out that Wurtzel had been convicted before on sexual assault charges. Wurtzel attacked the woman after their second date.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

IS ONLINE DATING SAFE? CAN IT BE SAFER? DID YOU MEET YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER OR SPOUSE ONLINE? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.

-City News Service

Kenneth Larson March 22, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Funny things happen on the Internet and people also send out obscene, mean and very sarcastic comments to other people. I received some of these mean comments and just shook my head and decided to be more careful and carry a big stick like Teddy Roosevelt asked Americans to carry.

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