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Worse still, her picture and profile have been plastered across tawdry dating websites belonging to ‘lads mags’ such as Nuts and Loaded that are more associated with scantily-clad girls in semi-pornographic poses than professional, middle-aged women like Jenny.

Unbeknown to Jenny, justsingle is run by a parent company called Global Personals — a legitimate company most members never will have heard of, but which passes members’ details freely between the 7,500 sites it owns, meaning they are inundated with unwanted and inappropriate advances.

‘Part of me suspected it was too good to be true, but I replied anyway.’ And, surprise surprise, she never heard back.‘I only met most of them once, for a drink,’ she says.

‘One, a store manager, had joined a website called Old Flirt. They came from geographical and rock music dating sites. One didn’t even know I had a son, which was the whole point.

Finding fake profiles was a secretive and calculated process, with the team scouring social networking sites and stealing people’s photos to use on their fake profiles: ‘You’d take Helga from Iceland and make her into Helen from Manchester and write a profile,’ says Ryan.

‘You’d use her features and invent a whole new person.’ The role of the fake profiles — or ‘pseudos’ as they were called by employees — was to email members flirtatious messages to entice them into continuing their subscriptions.

After her marriage broke down, Jenny Beard knew finding love again wouldn’t be easy.

Not only was she 42 and the sole carer of her six-year-old son Will, but her demanding career as an accountant left her with precious little time to socialise.

A spokesman for Global Personals told the Mail: ‘When members subscribe to one of our sites, they are advised in the terms and conditions that their details will be made available to members of different sites on the relevant shared database.

‘Our job is to get our members in front of as many other members as possible.

Within weeks, Jenny got her first warning signal: She’d begun emailing a fellow single parent from her area and the pair had swapped phone numbers:‘I texted him and said “it’s Jenny from Just Single Parents” and he replied “what? ‘I know I got emails that weren’t from real people,’ she told Channel 4 News.

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