California congressman rolls out legislation to protect online dating users, curb fraud and deception
A Republican California congressman introduced a bill on Wednesday that would protect dating app users from potential fraudsters and strengthen safety awareness measures protections.
Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
"Too many people are deceived, defrauded, or misled by users of online dating apps, and it’s alarming that there are so few checks on these widely used platforms. The Online Dating Safety Act is an important step to ensure people can make informed decisions about who they’re really talking to online," Rep. David Valadao told Fox News Digital on Wednesday.
Known as the Online Dating Safety Act, the bill would require dating apps and services to issue fraud ban notifications to users who have interacted with a person removed from the app for violating the online dating service’s policies, according to a copy of the bill exclusively provided to Fox News Digital.
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The notification would also require disclosing that the banned member "may have been using a false identity or attempting to defraud members" and that the user should not send any money or personal banking information to other users.
If signed into law, the bill would require that the identities of new users be verified. The online dating services would also be required under the bill to notify users of "Online Dating Safety Awareness" tools and warnings. The notifications would include telling users that "getting to know an individual through an online dating service may be risky" and users should take precautions when disclosing personal information and meeting with dates in person.
The advisory would also include a provision suggesting "that a member should stop communicating with an individual who pressures the member for personal or financial information or attempts to trick the member into revealing personal or financial information."
Online dating sites have been at the heart of a handful of scandals and tragedies in recent years, including a man in New Jersey who was sentenced last year to 160 years in prison for luring three women on dating apps and killing them. There have also been numerous reports of "catfishing" on dating apps, when people fake an identity to target a certain victim or victims for personal or financial gain.
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Over the summer, even a Democratic congressional candidate named Rudy Salas, who is running against Valadao, apologized for misrepresenting his age on dating apps, claiming he was 34 instead of his true age of 45.
The bill was inspired by the popular and disturbing Netflix documentary "The Tinder Swindler," which detailed how a man named Simon Hayut was accused of pretending to be the son of Israel’s "King of Diamonds" Lev Leviev to get money out of women in Europe.
Hayut allegedly used the identity to swindle $10 million from multiple women, which funded his lavish lifestyle.
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"I think it’s important to point out that he didn’t just defraud women," one of the women who said she was conned by Hayut, Pernilla Sjöholm, told Fox News Digital earlier this year. "A fraudster is going to take every opportunity out there, and it’s not only women. And people have felt ashamed about speaking up, so they get away with it. With fraud, the victims are usually blamed. Like, how could they do this to you?"
Hayut had previously faced charges for fraud-related offenses before he was arrested in 2019 in Greece for using a fraudulent passport. He was sent back to Israel and convicted of fraud, theft and forgery. He was released from prison after five months for good behavior.
He was ultimately banned from Tinder in February of this year and the company soon released new guidelines titled: "Romance Scams: How to Protect Yourself Online."
The documentary, which has a 79% favorable score among viewers on Rotten Tomatoes, noted Hayut "has never been charged with defrauding" the women, and they were still paying off their debts."