Tinder Users Lured by Sexy Spam Bots Peddling 'Castle Clash' Game
Spam bots aren’t sexy, even if their fake profile photos are. They don’t exactly get people in the mood for a hookup, so why do Tinder dating app users keep running into them?
Tinder is well aware that more than a few of its users -- who are taking to Reddit and Twitter to complain -- have been baited by bots disguised as right-swipe “hotties” pushing them to download a cheesy mobile game called “Castle Clash.”
But Tinder isn’t saying why or how it’s happening, and, of course, whether or not they’re in on it, which some have speculated to be the case.
We contacted the West Hollywood, Calif.-based startup for comment today and its director of communications provided us with the exact same statement she issued to TechCrunch: “We are aware of the accounts in question and are taking the necessary steps to remove them. Ensuring an authentic ecosystem has always been and will continue to be our top priority.”
Acknowledgement is the first step to admitting you have a problem, and we think this statement clearly acknowledges the problem, which Entrepreneur was first alerted to by a Tinder user back on March 17.
The user, a Hollywood, Calif.- resident who works as an assistant director at a company that we confirmed is neither a direct or indirect competitor of Tinder’s, asked to remain anonymous due to his position within the Los Angeles film industry. He sent us the picture included in this article in his original March 17 contact with us after reading a profile we published that day on Tinder co-founder and CEO Sean Rad.
His email to us read:
So here's the scoop. I was chatting with a 'girl' on tinder the night before your article came out and she mentioned that she was 'relaxing and playing a game called Cattle [Castle] Clash' she asked if i had ever played that game and then sent me a link to download it off the App Store. The link she sent me was a 'tinder verified' link. Then she told me if i play her in the game 'i might get her phone number ;)' i immediately asked her if she was advertising and she stopped talking to me altogether. I managed to take a screen shot of some of our conversation before she blocked me and deleted our conversation.
The reason this is so disappointing and impactful is because if tinder starts gaining a reputation for hiring people to flirt for app downloads it with create a toxic untrustworthy environment and people will just give up using it."
Suspecting something fishy, the source, who asked to remain unnamed, snapped a screenshot of his exchange with the spam bot and “flagged and reported them to tinder.” He told us today that he has since been matched on Tinder “twice more with bots selling castle clash.”
The source says he’s not “100% sure” his first Castle Clash-related Tinder exchange “was a bot” or someone marketing the game on the sly. “It seemed like a naturally flowing conversation but i do notice now that i look at the screenshot again that i told her i hadn’t heard of that game before she asked me if i had heard of it and then i responded a second time. So it could very well be a bot.”
His initial report jives with dozens of other Tinder user reports circulating online. They claim they’re being “matched” with sham female user profiles (oddly, none of the fake accounts are masquerading as men). The spam bots initiate a “conversation,” then peddle a download link to the real Tinder user on the other end with a curious “Tinderverified.com URL” (http://tinderverified.com/castleclash) to I Got Games’ (IGG, Inc.) Castle Clash game. Apparently Tinder has since removed the link in question.
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We contacted IGG, Inc. for comment, but the global game developer (it has offices in five countries, including the U.S.) did not respond. It did, however, reportedly deny involvement in the spam bot scheme in a statement to the Romanian antivirus security company Bitdefender.
“We are already aware of the issue and we are currently investigating into it,” IGG representative Jiayan Wu said. “We are also being victimized in this issue therefore we are grateful for being informed.”
Whether IGG and Tinder are actively working together to unravel the mysterious, spammy activity, and if either company plans to take legal or other action against the other, remains to be seen.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.