Tattoo Media allegedly displayed ads for MyLuvCrush.com to users of Facebook, MySpace, Reunion.com and other sites. Those ads offered to provide the social networking users with the name of a "Secret LuvCrush" in their area. For instance, a Seattle resident was shown ads stating, "1 New LuvCrush From Seattle! "Find the name of your Secret LuvCrush. Get horoscopes now."
The ads ultimately lured users to the MyLuvCrush.com site, which sold horoscope subscriptions for $9.99 a month.
Tattoo Media operated the MyLuvCrush.com site for the campaign, but did not own the horoscope service, according to the AG's office.
The agreement with the Washington Attorney General's office calls for Tattoo Media to discontinue serving ads that state or imply that "a real person has an existing romantic interest in the computer user," and to pay around $20,000. The deal does not preclude any individual users from suing the company.
Tattoo Media did not admit to violating any Washington laws as part of the deal. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
The MyLuvCrush campaign appears to employ tactics similar to those used by Classmates.com, which allegedly enticed people to purchase paid memberships by sending messages saying that schoolmates were trying to find them. In both cases, the ads seem designed to appeal to the same desire for connection that drives people to sign up for social networking sites.
Classmates.com and another networking site, Reunion.com, currently face potential class-action lawsuits for their ad campaigns.
The Washington Attorney General's office launched its investigation after it came across complaints about MyLuvCrush on blogs and other forums. "We try to be proactive and see what's going on in the marketplace," said Senior Counsel Paula Selis, who heads the office's consumer protection high-tech unit.
"We do look at blogs. We look at what people are talking about out there, and sometimes cases come to us because of that proactivity."
Traffic at MyLuvCrush.com plunged from an estimated 5.7 million visitors in the month of August to 316,000 visitors last month, according to measurement firm Quantcast.