Victims of the Ashley Madison hack reveal the traumatic impact on their relationships

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A YEAR on from one of the world’s most devastating cyber crimes, the victims have told how the scandal changed their lives.

Hackers last year released the personal details of 35 million members of adulterous dating site Ashley Madison.

Divorce, shame and even suicide was the result of Impact’s cyber attack. At least two deaths were linked to the leak, after police in Canada reported the victims had taken their own lives.

And now documentary makers in the UK have met the victims of the exposure, both site customers and their spurned partners, The Sun report.

At the time, millions of people were actively using Ashley Madison to embark on discreet affairs with a low risk of their partner or spouse finding out

Former Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman image www.mylove-au.com

Former Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman. Picture: Supplied

Tamsin Smythe, from Virginia, was one of those affected by the leak.

She is unmarried, but has always shunned traditional relationships in favour of affairs and “quick hook-ups” — and says she met politicians, company CEOs and managers online.

Smythe told the Channel 4’s Sex, Lies, and Cyber Attacks: “Initially men are very hesitant to make the first move. When we start talking they want to find out, ‘Are you real? Do you really live in the United States?’

“Then once you start talking inevitably men have this sensational desire to send you d**k pictures. Sometimes it’s even the first picture — you don’t even know what their face looks like.”

Ashley Madison, displayed on a laptop in Hong Kong in 2013 image www.mylove-au.com

Hackers gave Avid Media 30 days to close down sites Ashley Madison and Established Men, where rich men seek beautiful women, under the threat of releasing the information.

CEO Noel Biderman refused, and 35 million details were released. He has since stepped down from his post.

Tamsin Smythe met politicians, company CEOs and managers online. Picture Channel 4 image www.mylove-au.com

Tamsin Smythe met politicians, company CEOs and managers online. Picture: Channel 4

Smythe said of that fateful day: “I was in a meeting room and all of a sudden my phone is dancing across the table.

“I’m trying to concentrate and I’m looking over and I’m seeing the names of business associates, business clients, friends of mine, people I had met on Ashley Madison contacting me and my heart sank. I had met and talked to quite a few of the gentleman — their wives were decimated and hurt and they wanted to talk.”

The program also exposes the lengths site creators went to, to make more cash.

Male users had to buy credits to speak to female members, and 837 “fembots” were circling the site, writing to gullible men.

Exposed user Christopher Russell said: “They made it sound like this playland of people hooking up and there’s millions of women here and they’re all interested in you.

“I had contact with probably around 200 profiles and out of those I believe I spoke to one actual person.”

Exposed user Christopher Russell reckons he spoke to just one real user on Ashley Madison image www.mylove-au.com

Exposed user Christopher Russell reckons he spoke to just one real user on Ashley Madison. Picture: Channel 4

Back in 2012, an anonymous victim known as “Jim”, from Idaho, discovered his wife and mother of his five kids was using Ashley Madison — and had had six affairs. They are now divorced.

“I threw up. It’s stuff you can never un-know, never un-see. There was a video someone sent me and it was her having sex,” he said.

“I have kids. I did not want to raise them up with a broken home. I felt like it was my fault. I felt responsible.

“I just tried talking to her and explaining, ‘You know I love you. We have five kids, let’s not destroy this family’. It took a long time before I stopped getting nauseous. I had to physically withdraw from Ashley Madison until the hack. That was a good day.”

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Henry Sapiecha

TRUE LOVE GUARANTEED ON LINE DATING SERVICES???

Many are searching for their big love online. My friend John* (name was changed at his request) is one of them and has already registered with four different dating services. He keeps me posted on his dating experiences there and I have begun to seriously doubt the validity and integrity of these portals. With slogans such as “Guaranteed contacts” and the premise that members will fall in love at second intervals, I believe there’s only one guarantee – there will be considerable costs.

dating-online-girl image www.mylove-au.com

That’s what we’d all like online dating to be

At the beginning, things will usually look very promising – creating your profile is free and, if you believe the ads, numerous women were already waiting for him. And won’t you believe it, within hours after his registration, various ladies visited his profile and, depending on the service, left smileys, short messages or virtual kisses. The problem was that only paying members were able to respond and get in touch with them. But since his chances were so high and life as a single is so hard he happily opened his wallet.

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The search for love can be an expensive undertaking – John had to pay between €120 and €450 for three of his dating services. Naturally, contacts were “guaranteed” and the big love among the millions of members was said to be just one click away. Initially, he was confident and astonished at how many women were interested in him, a seemingly average guy. But after a few days, things got uncomfortably quiet. Ladies either didn’t write back, their profiles vanished or the reply was something like “I’ve found my true love. Good luck with your search.”

single-red-rose-petals image www.mylove-au co,

Since John is single not stupid, he did some research. It turned out there were countless similar cases. His worst suspicions were confirmed a few days later when “Lovoo” gained notoriety: The company allegedly used fake profiles to lure visitors into becoming paying members. Using stolen photos, made-up biographies and hordes of female writers (if they were female, that is), love interests were faked to attract customers. And it would never have come out without a whistleblower that handed revealing documents over to the media. So now we have a first prime suspect – and even more suspicions towards other similar services.

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If you look up related terms on Google such as the name of a dating service and “scam”, you’ll quickly find that they’ve taken precautions! Multiple sites, obviously created by the affected companies themselves, will tell you that there’s no foul play involved, everything is fair and square. But they handled things a little too professionally. Who’d write glowing reviews about these services and wrap everything in a visually highly professional layout unless they were involved? This is obviously meant to impede any serious investigation into the dark side of these million dollar businesses. In all my years of research, I’ve never encountered this type of behavior!

Reason enough to cancel your subscription? That’s what John thought and he tried to terminate his accounts in due form and time. But the service providers put up as many hurdles as possible, requiring him to send everything by mail (in one case) and to go through grueling cancellation procedures (he had to fill in data that even he as an experienced computer user had trouble finding in his account). And once he got through all of that, there was more trouble ahead in the form of so-called compensation.

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Not a case of big love but a case for the courts

With only a few days of use, he expected to get back most of what he had paid but one provider thought otherwise: He was told that they had held up their end of the deal (he had made contact with women) which is why they’d keep 75% of the money he paid. They had charged him a princely sum each time he clicked on a contact’s page (naturally, this includes the many profiles that vanished rapidly). This case will most likely end up in court quite soon – and John ended up single, again.

So far, so annoying. Frankly, I’m not trying to demonize an entire line of business but we need to be wary of all too big promises and also keep an eye on costs. Treat overly positive or professionally made reviews with suspicion and look beyond the first pages in your search results. And if you’re wondering whether I’m John – I’ve not met my better half through a dating service – but through Facebook. 🙂

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What I would like to know: Have you had any experience with dating services? Did John just have bad luck? Feel free to comment (anonymously).

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Henry Sapiecha