NEW JERSEY – A new study shows a record $547 million was lost to catfishing or romance scams in 2021 and New Jersey ranks No. 10 for the most money lost per capita.
Online love seekers in New Jersey lost $324,500 per 100,000 residents last year. Overall, the state had 517 victims report losses of $30,142,767.
Criminals became increasingly ubiquitous on dating and social media apps in 2020 to prey on lonely singles during lockdowns. Even though dating life is back to normal, more people are using dating apps than ever before and consequently romance scams are increasing in numbers and complexity.
Among the 10 hardest hit states, the top six are in the West and the next four are in the East.
10 hardest hit states:
- North Dakota: $1,558,064 (Per 100,000 residents)
- Nevada: $486,233
- Alaska: $481,601
- California: $465,191
- Colorado: $424,214
- Washington: $414,766
- Rhode Island: $411,857
- Maryland: $334,756
- Florida: $327,249
- New Jersey: $324,500
Three romance scams to avoid in 2022:
- ‘Money Mules’: A new twist is when scammers do not ask for money, they send you some and ask you to wire it to their family member in trouble overseas. They claim their bank is having issues. Once the victim agrees, they have participated in a money laundering scheme. How to Avoid: Never provide your bank information or send and accept wire transfers.
- 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 gains the victims trust, and instead of asking for money, they convince them to invest in a bogus crypto app. 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.
- Social Media Influencer Scams: 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. 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.