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Surfers using the sites run by Edinburgh-based Cupid plc – which include cupid.com, flirt.com and benaughty.com – told the BBC they received flirtatious messages but failed to get dates. They said they had lots of messages when they signed up to the sites as free users, but when they paid up, interest rapidly tailed off.

The online acquaintance firm denies creating profiles simply to tempt clients. Cupid plc’s chairman, Bill Dobbie, told the BBC it had about 500 “staff profiles” on its websites – but he insisted they were used for moderating chat rooms and forums – and to root out scammers.

The BBC spoke to 11 users of Cupid plc’s sites who expressed doubts about whether many of the “daters” they heard from are genuine. 

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