Online Dating: Is The Honeymoon Over?

For NBC, I've driven race cars, weathered hurricanes, and searched for my lost luggage at the airport. But, this is one Today show story that had me completely in the dark. I'm sure my husband of 15 years will be pleased to know that my online shopping skills don't extend to Internet dating.

Cyberdating took off just six years ago, and it's already big business. Those subscription fees generated more than $500 million last year. But after years of double digit growth, the market grew just 9 percent in the last accounting — meaning love online may be in decline.

The reason isn't clear, but you don't have to be single to have heard the horror stories. Potential partners are sometimes masters of fiction, misrepresenting everything from their weight to their marital status. For all the transparency the internet provides, it's also an enabler of deception.

Rich Levy was the bachelor I profiled, and by any definition, this guy's a catch. He's 31 and the owner of a handful of salad restaurants in Chicago, which is where he shared with me his war stories from the trenches of cyberspace. Among his dates was a woman who claimed online she was independently wealthy and then stole the money he'd left on the kitchen counter for his maid.

Levy says he's now off-line for good, and he's hired a professional matchmaking service called Selective Search. He's paying them 15 grand (no typo) for 10 set-ups. To my single friends out there, women DON'T pay and the company has offices in six cities. Start dialing. I asked Rich about spending that kind of cash to meet women. "What price would you put on your eternal happiness?" he asked in reply.

 

A matchmaker isn't for everyone, but many are leaving dating sites in frustration. What's replacing them? In Chicago, a group of singles get together at a neighborhood club once a month for trivia games and scrabble. They call it "dating for nerds" and ask friends to spread the word.

All issues notwithstanding, point and click dating does have its fans and a scrapbook of weddings. With that in mind, here are thoughts from the experts on how to avoid an online loser.

You've got to be a bit of a sleuth. Does his cell phone "not work" on nights and weekends? That's not a battery issue, ladies, that's a wife. A huge red flag should be flying if he says he doesn't have a recent photo. And just to clarify, while I'm using a male reference here, guys certainly don't have a lock on lying. Do you really weigh 110, or was that a decade ago? You get the picture.

Whether the meeting happened on the Internet or the corner cafe, one fact remains: In the search for happily ever after, we've all had a date with disappointment.

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