Man Sues for Grindr to Stop Impersonation Nightmare

MANHATTAN (CN) – Saying the hookup app Grindr has ignored 50 requests to remove fake profiles set up by his abusive ex-boyfriend, a New York actor claims in court that approximately 400 men showed up at his home or work expecting hardcore sex and drugs.

Calling the ordeal “an unfathomable nightmare,” Matthew Herrick filed the complaint on Jan. 27 in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Herrick describes himself as an on-and-off Grindr user since 2011. In 2015 the aspiring model-actor met a man whose name is abbreviated in the complaint as JC. They dated for over a year before Herrick broke it off in October “because of JC’s abuse and control.”

“After that, JC creatively, energetically, and seemingly without time constraints, embarked on a scorched-earth campaign against plaintiff – stalking him online and offline, attempting to destroy plaintiff’s reputation, employment, and future job prospects as an actor,” the complaint states.

“The most pernicious and relentless of JC’s tactics to destroy plaintiff was through the creation of Grindr profiles impersonating plaintiff and making endless appointments for sexual encounters between plaintiff and strangers.”

A screenshot of one of the fake profiles described in the complaint against hook-up app Grindr.

Herrick says the profiles impersonating him use names like “Raw Pig Bottom,” “Muscle daddy” and “Gang Bang Now!”

Though they include accurate descriptions of Herrick’s age, build and ethnicity, they sometimes falsely describe Herrick as HIV-positive.

Herrick says photographers have become afraid to work with him, and that he had to drop a sponsorship with a South African touring company.

In addition to the reputational harm, however, the fake profiles have created a physical danger for Herrick, his roommates and his family.

“Plaintiff is humiliated on a daily basis and afraid to be in public places or at home alone,” the complaint states. “He is afraid to even walk his dog alone at night. He is in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, afraid that Grindr has been used to incite or seduce the wrong person -somebody who will make good on threats to attack or rape him.”

Saying he has good reason to be afraid, Herrick notes that the fake profiles have just in the last two months drawn over a dozen men each day to his Harlem apartment and to the restaurant where he worked.

Several pages of the complaint describe Herrick’s unwanted suitors like activity in a police blotter.

He notes that the fake profiles sometimes give the impression that Herrick will be fake-resisting “as part of an agreed upon rape fantasy or role play.”

The complaint says one man who made his way into Herrick’s building returned 15 minutes after he was turned away, “insisting that plaintiff had just urged him on Grindr to return.”

“Plaintiff is not safe in his own home,” the complaint states. “The men who respond to the ad are intimidating and often on drugs or seeking drugs from plaintiff based on JC’s  representations that plaintiff has drugs to provide. Individuals have banged on the window of Plaintiffs roommate demanding access to plaintiff. Multiple men have shown up sweating profusely, entered Plaintiff’s apartment building and refused to leave until they were physically escorted off the premises.”

On several occasions Herrick says he has had to call the police.

Herrick says he, his sister and his roommates have reported the abusive accounts to Grindr roughly 50 times since November 2016.

“At no time did Grindr remove the abusive accounts,” the complaint states. “In response to plaintiff’s detailed pleas, at best Grindr responded with an auto-generated reply stating ‘Thank you for your report.’”

Grindr’s alleged response is hardly the industry standard.

JC allegedly created fake accounts in the same vein for Herrick on a competing hook-up app called Scruff. Herrick says Scruff operators “were immediately responsive.”

“They confirmed the identity of the person making the complaint, navigated plaintiff through their system for complainants to help them identify the offending user, and within 24 hours, not only did Scruff locate and remove the offending profiles but also banned the IP addresses and specific devices from creating new profiles,” the complaint states. “Scruff also keeps any complainant informed and sends a notification when the problem is resolved.”

As a result of the approximately 400 Grindr users who have responded to the hoax profiles, Herrick says he has deactivated the buzzer to his apartment and put up a sign on the front door. “WARNING GRINDR USERS,” it says. “Do Not Buzz or Enter Apt. FAKE PROFILE. REPORT to GRINDR.”

Based on the continued intrusions, however, Herrick says these efforts have been less than successful.

“Despite possessing the exclusive ability to stop this scorched earth campaign against plaintiff, Grindr made no effort to discontinue or ban the accounts – or even respond to plaintiff’s complaints,” the complaint states.

Herrick says Grindr failed to comply with its own Terms of Service and is violating of New York General Business Law Sections 249(h) and 350-e.

Based in West Hollywood, California, Grindr bills itself as the largest and most popular for gay and bisexual men in the world, with nearly 10 million users in 192 countries. More than a fifth of these users are in the United States, with more than 426,000 users in New York City, making New York City its top metro area globally.

Representatives from Grindr have not returned a request for comment.

Herrick is represented by Carrie Goldberg of Brooklyn.

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