CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– A report from Social Catfish ranks Massachusetts in 11th place for people being victimized in romance scams.

Dating apps and websites continue to be a popular way to connect with people looking for a relationship, but they’re also places where scammers look for victims. Thieves create fake profiles and lure potential victims in by building trust. Then they start asking for money for things like plane tickets to come visit, or to help pay bills, or pay for medical treatment, or ask you to cash a check and send them the money. After they get what they want, or if you stop sending money, they disappear.

The authors of the report analyzed data from the annual FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and Federal Trade Commission FTC fraud reports, and trends from users on socialcatfish.com. They found that Americans reported losing some $547 million to romance scams in 2021, compared to $304 million in 2020.

North Dakota, with a population of less than a million people, came in first place while Maine came in last for the number of people who were scammed.

The report also lists the newest romance scams that are making the rounds.

1) ‘Money Mules’: Romance scam victims are being tricked into money laundering. The victim could face charges for being involved with illegal activity.

2) ‘CryptoRom’: Cryptocurrency related romance scams were the largest losses in 2021 of $139 million. Instead of asking for money, scammers get people to invest in a fake crypto app and steal their money.

3) Teens Targeted on TikTok: Teens are just learning about romantic relationships, and because of lockdown during the pandemic and the longing for companionship, may be vulnerable to sweet talk. They lost $101 million to romance scams in 2021.

4) Social Media Influencers: Scammers steal the images from a social influencer to create a fake profile and lure in potential paramours with the promise of a romantic relationship.

5) Gift Card Scams: Victims sent $36 million in gift cards to scammers in 2021, the top payment method. 

How do you recognize a romance scam? The person seems too good to be true, they have a lot of hard luck stories, they have few followers, they have poor spelling and grammar, they live in another country, they won’t video chat, and they ask for financial help.

Law enforcement and consumer advocates say to never share personal information such as your social security number, bank account information, address, mother’s maiden name or birthday or other tidbits that you might use as an answer to a security question on an account. Also, never send money or agree to handle money for them.

Unfortunately, despite many warnings, many people looking for love do fall for these scams and some are too embarrassed to report them. But it is important to report this illegal activity. In some instances money can be returned and the scammers caught.

  • If you’ve been scammed, whether for romance or another way, report it to the FBI, the FTC and your state’s Attorney General’s Office or Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Call your bank and cancel any payments and freeze credit cards. If necessary, open a new account and transfer your funds. Update your account information and passwords to all financial accounts and even shopping websites you regularly visit.
  • Contact the credit reporting agencies and freeze your credit so that no one can open any credit accounts or apply for loans using your name and credit.
  • Report the scammer to the app or social media platform to have them investigated and taken down.