Last summer I worked with an interesting temp at my day job.
Mike (not his real name) is a whiz at jailbreaking phones, doctoring files, etc etc... but he revealed to me how some of the crooked dating site operators are staying in business... because he used to run a few of them himself.
Mike explained to me that for an investment of about $250, he obtained a dating-site software template from a UK manufacturer. This is a dedicated software package designed exclusively for creating dating sites.
He told me how he set up a new bank account for his crooked sites, then he'd get to work with the software. He had a friend who was a law student tweak the disclaimer so that the fees would be non-refundable (few people read the disclaimers anyway), and he hired student friends to write bogus profiles for all the photos he'd stolen online, then he was all set. Some of his female student friends (who weren't even looking for dates) willingly posed for bogus photos for Mike's collection.
Next, he'd buy up 2 or 3 domain names and start his "dating service", complete with photos, profiles, and a bunch of stock responses to send to suckers who tried to contact the "women"... Mike explained that the few women who joined his crooked sites rarely initiated contact, and this made his dirty work much easier. He concentrated on younger men, mostly in their 20s. The guys would pay a flat fee of $40 for the privilege of contacting the "women", then get the stock replies.
But the guys weren't sending messages to any women, they were just clicking an autoresponder he rigged to send out the replies.
In reality, Mike explained he'd keep 3 or 4 such sites running at any one time... he'd start one, run it for a month, then close it down and create a new one. He overlapped them this way so 2 or 3 would always be running. He made a few thousand bucks a month for 3 years doing this (he was only 24 when he started). The whole time, he even paid taxes on it too... because to outsiders it looked like Mike was just managing a regular dating service.
He explained that for maximum plundering, he sometimes would focus a site to operate only in a radius of some zip codes in big cities, like NYC, LA, Chicago, or Houston, then in a month, it would disappear---and so would Mike, with the profits.
I asked him if he was afraid of getting busted. "Man," Mike explained, "how many guys are gonna sue over 40 bucks?" But he cautioned that he didn't try to go after bigger money by trying to bilk wealthy people. "Those rich people WILL come after you if you f. with them," he explained.
Eventually, he said, he got bored of the business, and he said the profits slumped after 2008 anyhow.
So there you have it... testimony from a guy who used to run crooked dating sites. Undoubtedly some of you who are reading this post have been scammed by one of Mike's old sites which are no longer around.