According to a new study by Social Catfish, Americans lost a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2022, a 138% increase from the previous year’s losses of $547 million. This marks the largest single-year hike in the past five years.
The study analyzed data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as internal data from 10 million of Social Catfish’s users. Among the key findings were the states that lost the most money to romance scams.
California tops the list with $158 million lost, followed by Texas with $60.3 million, Florida with $53.4 million, New York with $33.5 million, and Arizona with $25.4 million. However, it was smaller states that saw the biggest increases in money lost year-over-year, led by Arkansas (398% increase), New Mexico (268%), and Maine (216%).
Maryland ranks 12th on the list with 350 victims losing $15.6 million in 2022, with the 9th highest average loss per victim at $44,680.
The study also found that crypto was the top payment method used by scammers, accounting for 34% of all money lost in 2022. Bank wire transfers came in second at 27%, and gift cards were third at 7%.
Furthermore, scammers most commonly used lies such as claiming to be “sick, hurt or in jail” (24% of scams) and “I can teach you how to invest” (18% of scams).
To help people avoid falling victim to these scams in 2023, Social Catfish has identified three types of romance scams to watch out for. These include celebrity romance scams, where scammers pretend to be celebrities on social media; cryptocurrency romance scams, where fraudsters convince victims to invest in crypto using fake apps; and military romance scams, where scammers use stolen military photos and claim to be stationed overseas.
To avoid these scams, it is crucial to conduct a reverse image search to confirm the identity of the person in the photo and never invest in crypto with someone you have not met. Additionally, if a celebrity asks for money, it is a scam, and fake accounts often have fewer followers and strange handles.
Romance scams continue to be a significant problem in the United States, and it is essential to remain vigilant and take precautions to avoid falling victim.