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Online dating services to screen future clients

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(CBS News) Major online dating services have agreed to join forces with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to protect members by running background checks on prospective clients.

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released a joint statement with Match, eHarmony and Spark Networks (operator of dating sites like JDate and ChristianMingle) to announce the partnership and encourage other dating sites to implement similar policies.

The sites will cross reference prospective clients with national sex offender registries and provide an abuse reporting system. Anyone who is a registered sex offender will be barred from the online dating services.

"Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted," said Attorney General Harris. "It is a priority for this office to ensure consumers are protected online, and companies who are creating in the Internet space have a continued opportunity to innovate and thrive."

Match, eHarmony and Spark Networks are three of the largest networks for singles in search for romance. While some of the dating sites have already implemented a background check on prospective members, this announcement is the first joint effort with law enforcement.

"We have always been committed to setting the standard for positive consumer experiences in online dating, and we were happy to work with the Attorney General, eHarmony and Spark Networks to encourage best practices throughout the industry," Mandy Ginsberg, president of Match.com said in a statement.

"The safety of our members and integrity of our sites is of fundamental importance to us, and we have always taken a multi-faceted approach to creating and maintaining safe online communities like JDate and ChristianMingle," said Greg Liberman, president and chief executive officer of Spark Networks.

"eHarmony has the greatest concern for the safety and security of our members. These types of practices have been part of our commitment to member safety and education for many years." said eHarmony CEO Jeremy Verba.

While these measures are promising, not every would-be sex offender can be filtered out. Some common sense tips include, using the site's email system, meeting in public and letting a friend know vital information about the person you are meeting. Match, eHarmony and Spark all have safety tips available on their websites.

Online dating services garnered 40 million users in 2011. Americans have spent over $1 billion on membership fees.

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