A former employee of the Ashley Madison adultery website has claimed she was told to create hundreds of fake profiles of female "members" to entice men to join up.
Doriana Silva, who worked at the company's headquarters in Toronto, Canada, tried to sue the firm after claiming she suffered repetitive strain injury (RSI) after being given a month to input 1,000 bogus memberships.
The case adds to suspicions that countless British victims of an online hack of its database, whose details are now publicly available as alleged users of the website, are innocent victims whose email addresses may have been bought in bulk by Ashley Madison.
Meanwhile the relationship guidance service Relate said it had been contacted by a number of people whose marriages had been affected, including wives who had found their husbands' names in the database and husbands who had cheated and wanted advice on how to save their marriage.
Ms Silva, who is Brazilian, was recruited by Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media to help launch a Portuguese language website in her home country.
According to court documents in Toronto: "Her allegation is that her job entailed concocting phony profiles of alluring females and inputting these profiles into the appellants' online dating service in order to attract male subscribers."
She claimed she was given three weeks to create 1,000 fake profiles.
Her claim stated: "The purpose of these profiles is to entice paying heterosexual male members to join and spend money on the website.
"They do not belong to any genuine members of Ashley Madison - or any real human beings at all."
She said she was led to believe "that doing so was some sort of a normal business practice in the industry" but found her workplace "oppressive and unethical".
Ms Silva launched the case in 2012, claiming £10 million in damages. Avid Life counter-sued her, denying her claims, and the two sides eventually agreed to drop their cases earlier this year.
Ashley Madison claims to have 1.2 million users in the UK, which would equate to almost one in 20 of all adults between the ages of 18 and 50. Increasing numbers of supposed members whose details have been published online by hackers say they had never even heard of Ashley Madison.
Online security experts have suggested the company could have bought bulk email addresses from marketing companies to make it appear that their membership - and their choice of possible partners - was far larger than the reality.
A source close to the FBI investigation into the leak has told The Daily Telegraph that examinations of the database suggest many of the female profiles on the site were created by a relatively small number of individuals.
Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media, has already shelved plans to float on the London Stock Exchange because of the leak, and it now faces a battle for survival as victims of the hack, some of whom had paid for their details to be erased permanently, consider legal action against the firm.
A class action lawsuit has been launched in the US, seeking more than £3 million in damages, which could prove to be a conservative figure, and British victims may also decide to join cases being launched in the US and Canada.
Ashley Madison says on its website that it cannot "guarantee the authenticity of any profile". It relies wholly on men for its profits; women can join for free, but men pay a minimum of £39 to be able to contact other members, though there is no guarantee that they will get a response from people they message.
Peter Sommer, a visiting professor at the De Montfort University Cyber Security Centre, said: "A number of internet dating agencies are known to artificially boost the number of profiles they have in order to make them more attractive.
"They take publicly available information from other databases and added it to their own. People then pay to be able to contact other 'members' and it's not until they get to that stage that they realise a lot of them are duds."
Bulk email addresses can be bought from marketing companies for as little as 10p each.
Another possible explanation is that people using the site have simply stolen other people's email addresses so they do not have to give their own name. People can even browse the site using entirely fake email addresses, because no verification emails are sent out by Ashley Madison to check the email is genuine.
Among those who believe they may have been the victims of identity theft is Oliver Coppard, who stood as Labour's parliamentary candidate in Sheffield Hallam against Nick Clegg earlier this year.
He said an email address for him that appears in the leaked data is one he has not used for three years.
"It's a bit of a mystery to me," he said. "I have never been on the site and I'm not even married so I would have no need to use it. It doesn't really matter to me, but I don't know how it has happened."
Michelle Thomson, the SNP MP for Edinburgh, also said an old email address of hers appeared in the database, and believes her details were "harvested" from publicly available online sources.
The Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills's email address also appears to have been used by a third party, and the hacked data includes more than 20 other BBC email addresses, six from ITV and two from Channel 4, as well as those of civil servants, MoD scientists, police officers and soldiers.
Ashley Madison has claimed that the majority of the user details contained in the data published online have not come from its website, raising yet another possibility, that the hackers themselves may have published bogus identities alongside real ones.
Security experts said the website's cyber security was "very poor" and enabled hackers from The Impact Team to gain complete control of the data.
Lorna Tilbian, executive director and head of media at Numis Securities, said the future of Ashley Madison as a viable business was now in doubt.
She said: "It's a broken business model. I thought the whole point of having a furtive affair was to keep it just that.
"Forget Ashley Madison just generating bad vibes, if it's not going to generate cash then it becomes a serious business problem - an investor would have to be mad to touch it.
"For a business that is predicated on secrecy and then is hacked with the outpouring of personal details then it no longer becomes a viable business. I'd be amazed if it was still able to [float on the Stock Market]."
A spokesman for Ashley Madison declined to comment, other than to refer back to previous statements the company has made.