New York is looking for love in all the wrong places, apparently — but a couple other states get burnt far worse by fake loves.
According to a study from the online investigative service Social Catfish, New York had 823 people fall victim to a romance scam in 2022, losing a total of $33.5 million. Believe it or not, that’s actually an improvement from 2021, when victims from the state lost $57.6 million. So at least it seems people may becoming more aware.
Both in 2022 and 2021, New York was the fourth-worst in the country at falling for romance scams, which can occur on dating apps or social media profiles after the scammer steals a profile picture, pretending to be someone else. Last year, the three states that lost more due to the scams were Florida ($53.4 million), Texas ($60.3 million) and California, which lost far and away more money than any other state. The Golden State lost $158 million in the scams, according to the study, which is more than the next three states combined.
Elsewhere in the tri-state, New Jersey ranked 15th (improved from 6th in 2021), with 361 victims losing $14.2 million. Connecticut was right in the middle of the pack, with 159 people losing a total of $7.1 million, which was 26th in the nation. However, Connecticut did have the 8th-highest average amount lost, at nearly $45,000 — that topped New York and New Jersey by about $5,000 each.
For the second year in a row, Vermont saw the fewest number of romance scams at just 28 overall. Victims in the Green Mountain State lost just over $373,000 in all, the study found.
Overall, Americans lost a record $1.3 billion to romance scams last year, way up from $547 million the previous year — a 138% increase year-over-year. It also marks the largest single-year hike over he past five years, the study stated.
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It’s not overly surprising to see California, Texas, Florida and New York topping the list — each of them is very highly populated, making it easier for them to rack up big losses. And California had the highest average loss per victim, averaging at just over $72,200, according to the study.
But the biggest increases in money lost year-over-over actually went to much smaller states, like Arkansas (which saw a 398% increase), New Mexico (268% increase), Maine (216% increase), New Hampshire (155% increase) and West Virginia (135% increase).
What’s the most common method for pilfering cash away from unsuspecting victims just looking for love? That would be crypto, which accounted for more than a third of all money lost in such scams last year. Bank wire transfers were second-most popular, while gift cards were third.
A quarter of all romance scammers would use the line that they were “sick, hurt or in jail” in order get the target to send them money; it was used in just under a quarter of all scams, according to Social Catfish. Scammers would also go after those looking to learn more about money, as the lie of “I can teach you how to invest” was used in 18 percent of scams.
In a poll of those who had been targeted, Social Catfish said three-quarters of victims were college-educated, and 84% were either middle or lower class. Nearly half of those polled made less than $100,000 a year, according to the study.
In addition to the poll, Social Catfish analyzed data from the 2022 FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center fraud report released in March 2023 and the Federal Trade Commission’s annual fraud report released in February 2023 to get their findings.
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The study also named three scams in particular to be on the lookout for:
- Celebrity Romance Scam: Social Catfish said that if a celebrity online appears to be reaching out to you asking for money, it’s a scam. And as wild as this sounds, it does happen: They said one victim sent money to a fake Nicolas Cage; another chose not to send a fraudulent Keanu Reeves $400,000 to help him finance the “John Wick” movie.
- Cryptocurrency Romance Scam: Those looking to scam people will say they have gotten rich in crypto and will try to convince the victim to invest with them by downloading an app. Sometimes the app will even show a return on investment, but in reality, it’s all a scam.
- Military Romance Scam: Some scammers will swipe military photos and claim to be stationed overseas, which they use as the reason they cannot meet in person. But they will ask for money so they can fly to the U.S. to meet up and be together. A reverse image search can help make sure who you are talking to is really the person in the photo, the investigative service said.
So where are all these scammers located? The answer has its roots in one of the oldest scams on the Internet: Nigerian prince scams. Social Catfish said that most romance scammers are located in Nigerian office buildings, where the criminals use a mix of different strategies that can be seen in corporate America and other places.
The office buildings are said to be in operation 24/7, and much of the money stolen by the scammer gets taken by whomever is in charge.