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Kentuckians at risk for online dating scams during pandemic, study finds

Romance scams increased 70% to $362 million in U.S. in 2018

A new study shows online dating is surging during the current coronavirus pandemic and brought an increase in online romance scams. Kentucky residents are the No. 27 most at-risk for this swelling criminal industry.

In 2018, heartless “catfishers” scammed vulnerable online daters seeking love out of $362 million, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to SocialCatfish.com, a Murietta, Calif.-based resource for verifying online identities.

The Lane Report in the past published a two-part report about how Kentuckians were being victimized: It’s Always Scam Season and It’s Always Scam Season, Part II.

During the pandemic as social distancing and stay-at-home orders have sent more singles to online dating platforms, Bumble reported a 21% increase in romance scamming, SocialCatfish’s study found. Hard hit locales New York and San Francisco were even higher at 26% and 23% respectively. Tinder reported a 10-15% weekly increase, and the hardest hit countries like Spain and Italy are up 25%.

One thing is clear, romance and catfishing scams are bound to go up even higher in 2020, especially in places where the coronavirus is more prominent.

Social Catfish is an online dating investigation service. For a fee, it verifies information to confirm if the person that you’ve met online is really who they say they are. This week it released a study on the Most At-Risk States For Online Dating Scams using data from the FBI from 2019. Some of the highlights were:

• Kentucky ranked No. 27 in the country with 195 reported victims. Vermont reported the fewest victims of all 50 states with just 23 cases.
• 5 States with the Most Victims: California (2,206), Florida (1,363), Texas (1,287), New York (931), Pennsylvania (607).
• 5 States with the Fewest Victims: Vermont (25), South Dakota (27), North Dakota (36), D.C. (36), Wyoming (44)

Here are 4 Signs You Are Being Catfished During Coronavirus:

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. 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 United States yet don’t know how to write sentences or spell words, run.

To avoid becoming a victim, thoroughly fact-check and verify online identities before meeting in person or providing any information about yourself.