Beware of online romance scams

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A new study shows online dating is surging during the new coronavirus pandemic, and Michigan residents are the 11th most at-risk for online romance scams.

SocialCatfish.com on Wednesday released a study, “The Most At-Risk States For Online Dating Scams,” using data from the FBI from 2019, and Michigan ranked No. 11 in the country with 437 reported victims of online dating scams.

Online daters seeking love were scammed out of $362 million in 2019, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to the report.

States with the most victims

  1. California (2,206)
  2. Florida (1,363)
  3. Texas (1,287)
  4. New York (931)
  5. Pennsylvania (607)

States/territories with the fewest victims

  1. Vermont (25)
  2. South Dakota (27)
  3. District of Columbia (36)
  4. North Dakota (36)
  5. Wyoming (44)

Rise in users

During the pandemic, online dating platform Bumble reported a 21% increase in users in the U.S. New York and San Francisco’s Bumble activity increases were even higher, at 26% and 23%, respectively, according to Social Catfish.

Tinder reported a 10%-15% weekly increase in usage, and the platform saw a 25% uptick in hard-hit countries such as Spain and Italy.

Social Catfish said romance and catfishing scams “are bound to go up even higher in 2020” as the number of users increases.

Warning signs

With that in mind, here are four warning signs you are being catfished by an online dating partner:

  1. They want to move fast in the relationship: The sooner they gain your trust, the faster they can ask for money. Move at a normal pace.
  2. They don’t want to video chat with you: If someone won’t meet, or even video chat, it is likely they are not who they say they are.
  3. They ask for money: If anyone courting you online asks for money — in this case perhaps related to treating COVID-19 — this is the ultimate red flag, and you should cease communication.
  4. They have poor grammar: If they claim to be from the U.S., yet don’t know how to write sentences or spell words, run.

To avoid becoming a victim, Social Catfish recommends users thoroughly fact-check and verify online identities before meeting in person or providing any sensitive information.

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