Yuliana Avalos, a Florida bikini model, is suing Match.com for $1.5 billion because photos of her were used hundreds of times in fake profiles on the dating site.
Yes, she’s suing for $1.5 billion (with a “b”) because someone used her face and likeness illegally. That sounds a little excessive to me. You?
To be fair, Avalos says her image was used as part of an online scam and may have caused a man’s death. Let me explain.
The scam artists were using Avalos’ image (which they obtained from her modeling site and travel blog) as part of a catfish scheme in which a mark gets suckered into sending money to a scammer posing as someone else.
In this case, 70-year-old Al Circelli killed himself after repeatedly sending payments to a person he thought was Avalos. He had fallen in love with an image and a profile of a person who didn’t really exist.
“The woman who he thought he was talking to was begging him for money and he finally went broke,” Avalos told the New York Daily News. “He had to borrow money from his son. He went bankrupt. He lost everything. He was so ashamed that he killed himself.”
Avalos says her likeness is so prevalent on Match.com that it’s obvious the site isn’t doing much to protect users from these catfish scams. She may be right.
Experts say fake profiles are often created in other countries for criminal purposes such as these “romance scams” which entice victims to send money to people outside of the country.
Avalos believes that Match.com is “looking the other way” as it can tell the fake profiles are being posted with IP addresses in foreign countries. The IP addresses and the cities listed on the profiles don’t match.
Personally, I think Match.com should do a better job of policing their site for these types of scams. I also think the thieves who steal other people’s photos should be prosecuted.
But does Avalos deserve $1.5 billion? No! That would make her one of the richest people in the world. Did she really suffer that much damage? It’s a terrible situation and she’s deserving of some compensation, but I think she’d be taken more seriously in court and in the world of public opinion if she came up with a more reasonable amount.
Catfish scams need to stop, but so do lawsuits with silly amounts for damages. Give me a break!
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