Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Oct. 20, 2022
(Colorado) College educated, young and low-income Americans are increasingly at-risk to fall for romance scams, according to a new poll of over 3,000 citizens.
The poll was conducted from May to August 2022 and included only past romance scam victims and current Social Catfish reverse search subscribers. The poll showed women, people of color and those with low or middle incomes are increasingly scammed by online fraudsters.
Over 10,500 Coloradans lost a total of about $133.67 million in 2021. However, this only ranks Colorado as the 14th most-scammed state. California, Texas and New York make up the top three scammed states, respectively, with California residents losing $1.23 billion in 2021 to scams.
The FTC reported a record $547 million was lost to romance scams in 2021, up from $304 million and labeled it the No. 1 type of fraud. It appears that “catfish” scammers are becoming more sophisticated and highly educated individuals are increasingly being left heartbroken and penniless. Catfishing refers to masquerading as another person online to trick other users, usually to get at their money.
Social Catfish shared the information from its study on the State of Internet Scams 2022 using data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission.
The study found that 44% of victims make less than $100,000 and 40% make less than $40,000 annually. Additionally, researchers found white victims were largely middle-aged or older adults, with 4% of white victims reported to be under 40.
However, 13% of victims who didn’t identify as white were under 40 years old. Additionally, from 2017-2021, victims under 20 have seen an 1126% increase in money lost to online scams, marking the highest increase of any age group over the five-year period according to the FBI IC3.
Over three-quarters of romance scam victims who responded to the poll said they were college educated, and 13% of the group said they have graduate degrees.
Additionally, a disparity in female and male victims was evident, with 78% of romance scam victims identifying as female. Most romance scams (35%) originated from a dating app and 27% originated through Facebook. On average, Colorado residents lost about $12,400 in each scam, but 10% of victims lost more than $100,000 and 4% lost more than $200,000.
Americans lost a record $6.9 billion to online scams in 2021, up from $3.5 billion in 2019. The amount lost has nearly doubled since the global pandemic began in 2020 as people were forced to work, shop and date online.
As over 80% of victims earn less than $100,000 annually, this meant many had to sell their assets or take out loans to pay their scammers. Moreover, 35% of victims were retired, forcing many to reenter the workforce.
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