Minnesota #22 most ‘catfished’ state, lost $12 million in 2021

Minnesota Nice appears to have caught up with 340 individuals who didn’t realize they were looking for love in all the wrong places until their bank accounts told them so.

According to data collected by the FBI and Federal Trade Commission, romance scams — also referred to as “catfishing” — cost Americans $547 million in 2021, reports SocialCatfish.com. This is up nearly 80 percent from 2020 numbers.

In Minnesota, the average love-seeker lost $37,774 last year, ranking us the 22nd most catfished state. A total of 340 individuals reported being tricked out of their money, which all together totaled over $11.8 million. This is up from the $6.9 million that was swindled from 307 Minnesotans in 2020 who, on average, each lost $22,435.

Despite high-profile television shows on Netflix detailing “how scammers prey on people looking for love online,” romance scams have “become the No. 1 type of fraud measured by the Federal Trade Commission,” continues Social Catfish. Over the last five years, people have lost “a staggering $1.3 billion.”

Our catfished neighbors

Minnesota’s neighboring states — except for North Dakota — were a little less gullible: catfished Wisconsinites lost on average $21,629 per person for a total of $7.5 million; 142 Iowans lost an average of $24,809 or $3.5 million in total; 52 South Dakotans were talked out of $24,658 on average or $1.3 million. Fifty-eight individuals in the Rough Rider state, though, were cheated $209,289 on average, for a total of $12.1 million.

California ($184 million total money lost), Florida ($70 million), Texas ($65 million), New York ($58 million) and Washington ($32 million) were the top five most catfished. Individuals in Maine ($386,894 total money lost), Vermont ($528,709), D.C. ($861,723), New Hampshire ($1 million), and Arkansas ($1.2 million) made it out with the least amount stolen.

Only seven states and Washington, D.C. lost less money to the romance scams than they did in 2020.

5 new romance scams in 2022 and how to avoid them

Social Catfish lists the five new ways romance scammers are approaching potential victims and how to avoid them.

1) “Money Mules”: More romance scam victims are being tricked into money laundering and facing prosecution. The scammer claims to need 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 Tik Tok: 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 Tik Tok 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 engage in romance scams. A survey conducted by Social Catfish found 86 percent 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 which are untraceable.

How to Avoid: If your online love interest asks for a gift card, that is a huge red flag and do not send any.

If you believe a romance scammer has contacted you, report it to the FBI and the FTC.