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Online dating scams: new tricks that fleece victims of an average '£9,589' But in November last year, Aileen felt a growing sense of disappointment as five months had passed and she had yet to meet any men.

Searchmate had so far suggested four – two of whom she’d already seen on rival site Plentyoffish.com, a free site, and who had both already declined to date her.

Searchmate offered to upgrade Aileen to its “Platinum” membership, a service via which customers are assigned their very own matchmaker who will proactively look for potential matches outside Searchmate’s client base.

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The site explained that this was down to most of the gentlemen who were active within her area “going on hold”, meaning they could no longer be contacted.In further emails, she found out that he had only been divorced for two months.An internet search turned up the equally worrying fact that he had recently changed his name and that several of his companies had been fined.The company, Elect Club, claimed to have the ‘largest private database of single professionals in London’, including business leaders and entrepreneurs.On its website, it boasted of being ‘the number one dating agency in the UK’ with branches in several major cities.‘Elect Club is an exclusive social network for attractive, dynamic, eligible professionals looking for a serious relationship,’ it said.‘He said he had had a call from them inviting him to come to some events.He had been a member of a dating agency in Gerrard’s Cross in Buckinghamshire that had shut down and Elect had bought it. When Ms Fontaine emailed to complain, she received an email back from Daniel Andre, the CEO of the company, saying: ‘Each of our members have specific criteria and their requirement doesn’t especially match your profile, I am afraid. Unfortunately, Elect decided she owed them two months’ membership.Ms Fontaine, who was awarded an MBE in 2007 for her charitable work, is now being chased by a debt-collection agency for outstanding fees.‘The thought of coming home to find my flat being stripped by bailiffs has certainly taken the sparkle out of any romantic ideas,’ she says.‘He kept going on about his boating holiday on the Thames. As we walked down the King’s Road, me with my designer handbag and Terry with his rucksack, I just thought, “So much for the neuro- linguistic programming.” ’But there was worse to come.Over pizza, Ms Fontaine discovered that Terry wasn’t a paying member of Elect.

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