(Both sides agreed to drop the suits early last year.) Despite the controversy, the company subsequently attempted to streamline its bot-creation process.

Internal documents leaked during the Ashley Madison hack detail how, according to a 2013 email from managing director Keith Lalonde to then-CEO Noel Biderman, the company improved sex machine production for "building Angels enmass [sic]." This was done, Lalonde wrote, because the staff was getting "writers block when making them one at a time and were not being creative enough." (Reps for Ashley Madison did not return requests for comment).

For AFF, bots are a cop out, though the appeal of building them is obvious enough to Conru.

What sex websites are free to sign up for-44What sex websites are free to sign up for-52What sex websites are free to sign up for-17

"And our bots would kick ass."he fact that AI con artists are up to such tricks isn't surprising or new.

But what's truly phenomenal is the durability of this online hustle, and the millions of saps still falling for it.

Last July, he found out that he wasn't the only one getting the silent treatment.

A hacker group called The Impact Team leaked internal memos from Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life, which revealed the widespread use of sexbots — artificially-intelligent programs, posing as real people, intended to seduce lonely hearts like Russell into paying for premium service. The strangers hitting you up for likes on Facebook? And, like many online trends, this one's rising up from the steamier corners of the web.

"The only way you can compete with fraud is you let people know it's fraud," he tells me.

"And it happens across the industry."Conru and AFF's CEO, Jon Buckheit, another Stanford Ph.

D., boot up the site of a top competitor, Fling, and demonstrate how, shortly after registering, they are wooed by what appear to be bots. "We doubt it really is Megan Summers."In an email, Fling owner Abe Smilowitz writes, "We absolutely don't use fake profiles and bots…Us and AFF are pretty much the only guys that don't." This could be true. "We still think they do."To keep out the bots of spammers and hackers on AFF, Conru, who launched the site shortly after getting his doctorate as a means to meet women, codes his own countermeasures and frequently checks user names and IP addresses for veracity.

With a Google image search, one of the women turns out to be pornstar Megan Summers. Any number of spammers and hackers might have created the profile with Summers' photo; it could be a housewife using the likeness to boost her appeal or conceal her identity. "It's a daily slog, going through hundreds of accounts every day evaluating them and deactivating them," he says.

"I don't know if I can disclose this," Conru says, "but recently, I had a guy do a search to see, like, White House.gov, and we found that there are lots of .govs, and a lot of "The company incentivizes members to prove they're who they say they are by sending in copies of their drivers licenses in return for a "verified" button on their profiles (similar to the little blue checks on Twitter accounts).

The fact that men outnumber women on the site's heterosexual platform ten-to-one is just life, they figure, and the women on the site are seemingly active enough to keep the guys onboard.

According to leaked emails, to create the bots, the staff utilized photos from what they described as "abandoned profiles" that were at least two years old.