A new study shows Florida was the No. 3 most catfished state in 2020 with 1,603 victims losing $40,173,934 to romance scammers.
Americans lost a record $304 million in 2020, up from $201 million in 2019. Romance scams are worsening despite government warnings, an MTV reality series, an NFL victim, and someone pretending to be Bruno Mars tricking a victim out of $100,000.
On April 14, SocialCatfish.com released a study on the Most Catfished States in 2020 using data from FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC released in March and February of 2021.
The surge in 2020 is due to COVID-19 creating unprecedented opportunity for scammers to prey on isolated and lonely victims.
Key Findings from the Study:
• The five most targeted states are: California (3,110 victims, $120M lost), Texas (1,602 victims, $42.1M), Florida (1,603 victims, $40.1M), Michigan (572 victims, $28.6M) and New York (1,103 victims, $26.2M).
• The five least targeted states are: Wyoming (44 victims, $377,214 lost), Delaware (58 victims, $488,609), South Dakota (32 victims, $585,685), North Dakota (47 victims, $600,571) and Vermont (46, $671,040)
• Record use of dating apps: Dating app revenue exceeded $3 billion for the first time in 2020, creating unprecedented opportunity for scammers to prey on isolated victims during the pandemic.
Tips to Avoid Being Catfished:
1. Never give money or personal information: Do not give anyone you meet online money, no matter the reason. Do not even give basic information which scammers use to identity fraud, get access to your banks and steal your money.
2. Take things slow: If you like someone online, do not let them rush you. Nigerian romance scammers will be pushy about falling in love right away. If that is the case, know something is not right.
3. Meet or video chat: Do not form a relationship with someone who will not video chat with you or meet you in person. A common scam is to say they cannot meet because they work overseas or are in the military stationed elsewhere, these are big red flags.
4. Reverse search: Scammers steal photos from good looking people on social media and pretend to be them. Use reverse search platforms that can confirm the identity of someone using a photo, email or phone number.
5. Be aware on all platforms: Scammers are not just on dating apps, they are contacting people in 2021 on Twitter, Facebook and even LinkedIn. Be careful on all platforms.
If you believe you have been contacted by a romance scammer report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?pid=A.