Romance scams across the nation in 2021 hit a record $547 million, and North Dakota topped the list of states for the most money lost per capita through love-themed fraud.
According to a data survey by social lookup website SocialCatfish, North Dakota, per capita, is the most vulnerable to romance schemes, losing an average of $1,558,064 per 100,000 people. The ratio between our low population and relatively high number of people who were scammed is what puts us at the top of the list.
In terms of real dollars, Californians lost $184 million to romance fraudsters in 2021, dwarfing what North Dakotans lost, but we have more people per 100,000 losing money to scammers than other states.
According to FBI and Federal Trade Commission figures, 58 North Dakotans lost $12,138,780 to some form of a romance scam in 2021, an average of $209,289 per person.
SocialCatfish says these are the top five romance scams to avoid this year and any year:
1) ‘Money Mules’: More romance scam victims are being tricked into money laundering and facing prosecution. The scammer claims he or she needs to wire money to a family member in trouble overseas but says their bank is having issues. They ask the victim for their bank account information to receive the money and then wire it overseas. The victim has now committed money laundering. The scammer also has their bank information for additional identity theft.
How to Avoid: Never provide your bank account number or routing number to someone you meet online offering to send you money via wire transfers.
2) ‘CryptoRom’: Cryptocurrency related romance scams accounted for the largest losses in 2021 of $139 million, up more than 25 times those reported in 2019. Scammers gain the victim’s trust, and instead of asking for money, they convince them to invest in a bogus crypto app and steal their money that way.
How to Avoid: Never invest money with anyone you meet online. If you want to invest in Crypto, use well-known Apps like Crypto.com, Coinbase, and PayPal.
3) Teens Targeted on TikTok: Teens lost a record $101 million to romance scams in 2021, up from $71 million. Teens are tech-savvy but feeling ‘love’ for the first time is an overwhelming emotion. With social development hampered by COVID-19 in recent years, romance scammers are increasing their presence on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram.
How to Avoid: Teenagers should never send money or give personal information to anyone they have not met in person. Parents need to talk to their children and vice versa as romance scams now impact every generation in the family.
4) Social Media Influencers: The FTC labeled social media a ‘gold mine’ for scammers as more than one-third of romance scams originated on Facebook or Instagram in 2021. Scammers create fake profiles, often stealing the likeness of an attractive and successful ‘influencer’ and engaging in romance scams where victims do not have their guard up. A survey conducted by Social Catfish found that 86% of influencers have seen an increase in fake profiles made in their likeness since the pandemic began.
How to Avoid: Do a reverse image search to confirm if the person in the photos goes by the same name as the person who friend requested you on social media.
5) Gift Card Scams: Victims sent $36 million in gift cards to scammers in 2021, the No. 1 payment method. This is the standard romance scam but instead of asking for money, which theoretically could be traced back to a bank account, they ask for gift cards that are untraceable.
How to Avoid: If your online love interest asks for a gift card, that is a huge red flag. Never send a gift card to anyone you haven’t met in person.
SocialCatfish advises if you believe you have been contacted by a romance scammer, you should report it to the FBI and the FTC.