Photo/IllutrationMomoko Inoue, who met her future husband, Goki, on the Pairs matchmaking app, shows off photos Goki posted in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. (Shujiro Tsujimura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Online matchmaking sites have become so popular that artificial intelligence (AI) versions of Cupid have replaced humans, but not all paired partners end up living happily ever after.

Some lonely hearts never even meet their ideal matches in real life and instead end up being victimized by con artists.

While AI may not yet be able to catch the malicious intentions of scammers, it has improved efficiency in helping an increasing number of people find girlfriends, boyfriends or marriage partners through smartphone apps and other online services.

AI-BASED MATCHMAKING

Pairs, a matchmaking app released by eureka Inc. in 2012, shows many “would-be partners” soon after it is opened. AI calculates the “affinity level” shown in red for each user.

More than 7 million people in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea had registered for the service by May, eureka said.

Users are asked to enter 30 conditions, such as age, address and annual income, and if they have children or a desire to get married soon. They can then check affinity levels, profiles and other data on candidates selected by AI and send “likes” to up to 30 individuals a month.

Recipients of “likes” can see the senders’ photos and detailed information. If requests are accepted, the two can communicate through a messaging feature on the app.

Anyone unmarried and 18 or older can register for the app for free, but males must pay a monthly membership fee of 3,480 yen ($31.50) to exchange a certain number of messages with specific women.

Eureka said its staff and AI-based system continually monitor the profiles and comments to block sexually explicit, offensive and other inappropriate messages and content.

Goki Inoue, 33, and Momoko Inoue, 32, met through Pairs in 2014, dated for around 18 months and got married.

The couple run the Tetoteto Shokudo restaurant, which organizes cooking lessons and other events at their home in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.

Momoko was developing a smartphone app when she sought a “man who loves cooking” on Pairs. She sent a “like” to Goki, and the affinity level estimated by AI was 82 percent.

Goki said he thought that showing his annual income, views on marriage and other data is “the best way to efficiently find ideal partners.” He became interested in Momoko based on her job information and her love of cooking.

ONLINE MARRIAGE HUNTING SPREADING

O-net Inc., a matchmaking service affiliated with online shopping giant Rakuten Group, has seen its number of new users rise from 18,000 in 2014 to 25,000 in 2017. O-net had 48,000 members as of April this year.

Registered members receive “letters of introduction” on their account pages each month, showing potential partners based on occupations, annual incomes, height and other items entered in advance.

Users can also chat with the introduced people on the dedicated bulletin board.

The registration fee and other starting costs total around 100,000 yen, followed by a monthly charge of 14,000 yen. Members must submit documented proof that they are single as well as a document showing their income.

An O-net official said many people who are “busy with work” and “cannot find good partners” in daily life but want to meet prospective spouses join the service despite its expensive fees.

“A growing number of people are hoping to find ideal partners even if they have to pay much money,” the official said.

Hikaru Saito, a professor of modern culture at Kyoto Seika University who is familiar with studies on relationships, said it is natural for people today to try to find marriage partners on the Internet.

“As online services spread, it has become common for people who have never seen each other’s face to build friendly relationships,” Saito said. “It is understandable that people use marriage hunting apps as a possible option to find more opportunities to meet would-be partners.”

BEWARE OF ‘DECOYS’

But as the number of users increases, so have the number of complaints concerning matchmaking apps.

According to the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (NCAC), one common problem involves people who pretend to be looking for partners but in reality are working for other malicious dating sites.

A women in her 30s in the Koshinetsu region was paired up with a man on a matchmaking app, who invited her to join a malicious site.

There, the site operator accused her of sending “corrupt texts,” and told her to pay 10,000 to 50,000 yen to “solve the issue.”

In many similar instances, decoy users hired by the site operators pretended to be the opposite sex, celebrities and others to lure customers to malicious dating sites.

A male twentysomething in the Tokai region was urged to go to another site by a women he came across on a marriage hunting app. He spent 1.3 million yen playing games on the site at the behest of the woman.

In the two cases, the decoys said they had changed or canceled their cellphones, and asked the targets to transfer to the other sites.

“You should be careful when you feel something is wrong with words and deeds of those you meet on such sites,” an NCAC official said.

(This article was written by Shujiro Tsujimura and Sayako Takaoka.)