Iowans are Subject to ‘Catfishing’ Scams, and They Pay the Price
As the years progress, more and more couples meet one another online as opposed to in person. According to a study conducted in 2017, 39% of couples reported meeting online -- up from 22% in 2009. It's easy to imagine that number has done nothing but increase in more recent years, likely as a consequence of the pandemic.
Since the beginning of online dating, scammers have found a way to take advantage. Generally, this is done by people creating fake online accounts with pictures that aren't their own -- they find someone more attractive and pose as said person. The term has been coined 'catfishing.'
Although the intentions aren't always to take money from the person being catfished, it's certainly a problem. And for Iowans, according to HighSpeedInternet.com, those that are scammed end up shelling out more cash than residents of almost any other state. The study reported that Iowans who fall victim to the scam hand out an average of $28,196.59. New Mexico and Arkansas are the only two other states that experience more significant loss -- Arkansas leads the way at more than $37,000.
Investigator Al Perales spoke with the Des Moines Register about the issue in 2018:
A lot of times it's not wealthy people. Individuals will get loans or open credit cards. They will bend over backwards for people when they don't have the means. ... When you’re in love with somebody and you have that connection, you'll do almost anything for them.
Though Iowans may be among the leaders in money given out, those that live in the Hawkeye State are much less likely than others to get caught in a catfishing scam. Iowa ranks 40th among the 50 states in that category.
Perales added that though Iowa doesn't have as much trouble with the crime as many other states, it still happens quite frequently.
I kid you not, I get romance scam after romance scam after romance scam. It really opened up my eyes that romance scams are prevalent.
The Register cites an FBI report that in 2016 "14,546 people were victims of romance or confidence scams, up from 5,791 people in 2014."
One woman who reported losses said that her catfish took as much as $125,000 from her. The catfishes often claim they have a medical issue or need to pay for flights to visit the person they're catfishing.
The aforementioned FBI study also said that "victims lost nearly $220 million in 2016, more than double the nearly $87 million lost in 2014."
Catfishing is so common that MTV was able to make an entire television show on the premise -- see the tweet above, and the YouTube video below.
Also -- probably the most famous case of catfishing, and one you may remember -- happened to former Notre Dame linebacker, Manti Te'o in 2013.