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Dating sites agree to screen for sexual predators

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Three of the nation's leading online dating sites have launched a joint initiative to help protect users from sexual predators and identity theft.

The sites—eHarmony, Match.com and Spark Networks (owner of JDate, ChristianMingle and other properties)—announced an agreement to check subscribers against national sex offender registries. Any member who is identified as a registered sex offender will not be allowed to use the sites.

According to the program, announced by California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Tuesday, the sites will also offer members "safety tips for meeting people offline" and provide a faster system for reporting abuse such as fraud and financial scams, giving members "access to a website, email address and/or phone number to report any suspected criminal activity."

They will also continue to "screen members for safety threats, whether financial or physical, using a number of protective tools, including looking for fake profiles and checking sex offender registries to prevent registered sex offenders from using their fee-based services."

Harris, who is assigning a member of California's eCrimes unit as a liaison to the sites, is hoping other online dating services will follow suit. Representatives for eHarmony, Match and Spark say they have always taken their members' safety seriously, and that the agreement is to encourage best practices.

As Mashable pointed out, a woman brought a civil suit against Match.com last year after she was assaulted by a registered sex offender she met on the site. Match agreed to check all of its members against the National Sex Offender Registry, and the suit was dropped.

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