'I'm used to playing different people, but with my consent'

Image caption Karen Bartke has set up a profile on a couple of online dating websites but was shocked to learn she had appeared on the Girls Date for Free site

A BBC investigation has found that fake profiles are apparently being used to encourage people to pay a subscription to a Scottish internet dating company.

Actress Karen Bartke told the BBC Scotland news website how she felt when she discovered her picture had been used on a dating website without her knowledge.

"Behind the profile on Cupid plc's dating site Girls Date for Free is me, Karen Bartke. Well, not exactly me, just my photo.

The profile isn't of me. It doesn't describe the real me, and it doesn't represent me.

I'm an actress, so I'm used to playing different people, but generally I give my consent first.

I'm not an internet newbie; I know that if I put a picture of myself up online I can't guarantee that it'll stay where I've put it, and for that reason I'm pretty careful about what I upload.

I'm also not completely new to the concept of online dating either - I have set up a profile on a couple of websites, but it isn't this one and it wasn't on this site.

'Ridiculous situation'

At first, when the BBC came round to see me and described the profile of Kaz B, I found it really quite funny.

Here was a picture of me and a description of someone whose tastes and likes are almost completely opposite to mine.

Image caption The BBC informed Karen that her image had appeared on sites without her consent

Apparently I'm looking for a single or divorced dad (I can barely look after myself, let alone someone else's children), I'm a strict vegetarian (not unless having roast beef for your tea is OK), I like easy listening music (I'm sure Green Day and Foo Fighters don't count), gardening (haven't a clue) and boxing (I think I wore boxing gloves for a sketch onceā€¦).

When I stopped giggling about the ridiculous situation, I started thinking - if someone's taken my photo and created a fictional person purportedly representing me, what else have they got?

Whoever put this online has taken away a little bit of my control over me.

Then I started to question why someone would create a phoney profile with my picture and put it on a dating website? I mean, if someone is interested in this fake me and tried to get in contact with her, he wouldn't realise this person doesn't exist.

Making up a fantasy version of me and sticking my photograph on it must have been done to make money from any person who might be interested in "me".

I don't know if it's scammers who've done it, whether it's been bought from somewhere wholesale with a lot of other images and descriptions, or if there is something more systematic at play. Whichever, it seems immaterial from where I'm standing.

The point is, it's wrong. It's wrong to create a fake me, and it's wrong to give people false hope that Kaz B is real and interested in them. That's not some bigheaded assertion that men would be falling over themselves to get to know the fake Kaz B; far from it. The profile might never have received a single expression of interest or even a single second glance.

But it could have and that's what matters.

'Vulnerable position'

Being on a dating site, to put a photograph of yourself up and say "this is me" and let someone else choose if they like you or not, takes a fair amount of guts. I know, I've done it and it wasn't as easy as you might think.

It's already a vulnerable position to be in, and I really object to people taking advantage of others by creating a fake me in order to attract someone else.

But whoever is behind this, the point of a dating site is that people are looking for real and genuine long-term relationships.

If the fake me is being dangled in front of them to entice them to give money to a company, then I have to question how many other fake profiles are on the site."

This article is subject to a legal complaint.

BBC Scotland Investigates: Tainted Love - The Dark Side of Internet Dating will be shown on BBC1 Scotland on Thursday 25 July at 19:00

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