January 29, 2016 5:36 pm
Updated: January 29, 2016 5:49 pm

Singles paying people to impersonate them online to score dates

WATCH ABOVE: You can now hire someone to manage your online dating and find you a partner. There's just one catch: they pretend to be you online.

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Someone is impersonating Katerina Lyadova online. But she isn’t concerned: She’s paying for the service.

Lyadova, who owns a design studio in Toronto, has discovered the joys of delegating tasks she doesn’t particularly enjoy.

“I hire designers, developers, writers — and at some point I just thought, ‘Why don’t I just try to outsource my dating life?'”

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So she posted an ad on Craigslist, searching for someone who’d scout prospective partners on her behalf, “flirt with them online and set up dates.”

“If you find a match that leads to meaningful relationship, you’ll get a bonus,” the 30-year-old wrote. “If it turns into a real deal I’ll double the original bonus.”

After fielding dozens of applications, she hired a woman this week who for will dedicate seven hours a week to the task, starting Monday. She’ll be paid $12 an hour.

The approach may seem unconventional. But Lyadova isn’t the only one doing it.

‘An assistive device for the dating disabled’

Anne Marshall runs her stealth matchmaking service from her home in Guelph, Ontario.

She offers three packages that range from $175 to $500. Her client base is mostly women between 30 and 60.

Many come to her because they’re tired of dealing with romantic rejection. Others are too busy. Some are just a little out of practice.

“I am an assistive device for the dating disabled,” the 44-year-old mother said.

She juggles the gig with freelance writing, a skill that she puts to good use as a dating manager.

“In most cases, humour goes a lot way, that’s probably the number one tip. Try and be funny.”

So far, it seems to be working.

“I’ve had good luck online with people moving in together, one marriage so far … a couple of what we call ‘domestic partnerships,’ I guess. And a couple of babies.”

Are there ethical issues with online impersonation? Marshall believes the good outweighs the bad.

She said some of her clients eventually tell her partners that they hired her, and usually they have a good laugh about it.

One boyfriend even asked for her contact so he could pass it on to a friend.

‘We want to make sure it feels really authentic’

The majority of people who use U.S.-based Virtual Dating Assistants don’t tell their partners, said company founder Scott Valdez.

But there are those who ask when would be a good time to share that tidbit.

“Definitely not first date material,” Valdez tells them. “More like ‘you’ve been together for a while’ material.”

“At that point … you’re not going to leave him because of this one little thing.”

READ MORE: Breaking up is hard to do; so these guys do it for you

The company has more than 200 clients, roughly 50 of whom are in Canada. About 80 per cent are men in their 20s and up. The rest are women, usually aged 30 and older.

“We manage our clients dating profiles from start to finish,” explained Valdez.

Step one is getting to know you. That’s the account manager’s job, and it’s usually done through a one-hour consultation.

A writer is brought in to help craft your bio, which you get to review.

“We want to make sure it feels really authentic. For some clients we try to make their career sound as sexy as we can. And then they read it and say, ‘Well, that’s not really what I do.'”

“That’s good feedback. Because that’s probably going to come up on a date.”

Your photos involve an entire team at the company, which has turned the selection process into a science.

“So you have a set of up to 40 photos. An account manager of the opposite sex would narrow it down to 20. And you take those 20 and you distribute it down to 12-14 people on the team,” explained company founder Scott Valdez.

The team then ranks the photos from their most to least favourite, and the rankings are put into a spreadsheet.

“Usually there’s a pretty clear winner,” Valdez said.

“If your photos aren’t what we need, then we let you know. And in any big city we’d have a photographer who would go and meet you.”

Conversing on your behalf

Now you’re ready to start online dating. Or, at least, have someone pretending to be you message people online.

Your dating manager gives you shortlist of profiles and asks you to approve the first few messages.

Inevitably, dating managers won’t always know the answer to a question that’s asked. Valdez admits that when it comes what their client did over the weekend, sometimes they just make it up.

“It is kind of a boring question … in some cases, when there are other questions in the conversation you can just kind of skip it without people really realizing it.”

For the most part, they try to keep the exchanges pretty basic.

“It’s not so much about, ‘What are your dreams for the future? Where do you use yourself in 10 years?'” Valdez said. ‘It’s more like … ‘If someone offered you a free trip tomorrow to anywhere in the world, where would you go?'”

His most popular bundles tend to be for 20 hours (US$460) and 40 hours (US$840), with the majority of clients taking up an hour of time a day.

While that may seem expensive, Valdez said you can’t really put a price on finding true love.

SOUND OFF: Would you ever hire someone to manage your online dating profiles?

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