Report finds many free dating apps don’t screen for sex offenders

Report finds many free dating apps don’t screen for sex offenders
A new investigation finds that about 10 million Americans are one click away from a sexual predator, hiding behind a profile on free dating apps and sites like Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge and Plenty of Fish. (Source: Pixabay)

(CBS News) - A new investigation finds many free dating apps don't screen whether users are registered sex offenders. Janine Dunphy said a free dating website connected her with the man she says raped her.

"I wouldn't have ever thought that somebody like him would be on a dating website," she said.

Dunphy is one of about 10 million Americans a new investigation finds is one click away from a sexual predator, hiding behind a profile on free dating apps and sites like Tinder, OkCupid, Hinge and Plenty of Fish.

All of those apps are owned by Match Group, which also runs the fee-based site Match.com, which does scrub users profiles that are found on sex offender registries.

“Match Group has promised to screen against the sex offender registry list for, specifically, Match.com, but has not extended that to the rest of its apps,” said Hillary Flynn with Columbia Journalism Investigations.

A Match Group spokesperson told her team "there are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products."

"Almost all of these attacks occur on the first date," Flynn said.

Dunphy said she met Mark Papamechail in 2014 on Plenty of Fish, before it was owned by Match Group. She had no idea he was registered as a sex offender with prior rape convictions.

Dunphy said she felt comfortable and went to Papamechail's house, where she said he raped her.

"Right after it happened, I told a few of my very close friends. I think I was in shock," Dunphy said.

She filed a police report and Papamechail was held for two years in county jail. He was later acquitted. By 2017, Papamechail was back on Plenty of Fish, where he matched with a woman who also told police he raped her. A case against him was dropped after that woman died the next year.

In a statement, Match Group called the new report by Columbia Journalism Investigations "inaccurate," adding, "we do not tolerate sex offenders on our site and spend millions of dollars annually to prevent, monitor and remove bad actors from our apps."

But Dunphy said these dating apps need to do more.

"A simple background check would've saved this whole thing from happening," she said.

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