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Americans Lost $4.2 Billion to Online Scams in 2020: Study

Last year's scam activity marks a sharp jump from the 2017-2019 period, which saw total losses of $7.6 billion (Image source: Social Catfish).

Image source: "State of Internet Scams 2021," Social Catfish

Americans lost a record $4.2 billion in 2020 after falling victim to online scams, almost half the total loss of $7.6 billion over the previous three years, a newly-published report shows.

Released Thursday, identity verification service Social Catfish’s first-ever “State of Internet Scams 2021” study said the dramatic spike could be attributed to increased online activity as more people shopped, worked and learned from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Scammers create a variety of tricks to scam people out of their hard-earned money. They create fake profiles and go onto social media platforms, dating sites and online gaming apps to start conversations with their victims," the study said.

Attackers also use data breaches to steal personal identifiers, as well as phishing emails to trick victims out of passwords and financial information, the study said.

In compiling its report, Social Catfish said it analyzed data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It also conducted surveys and interviewed cybersecurity experts.

Key Findings

  • The messaging platforms most targeted by scammers were Facebook, Google Hangouts, Instagram and WhatsApp Messenger, followed by dating apps Plenty of Fish,, OurTime, Zoosk and Tinder.
  • Victims in California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ohio lost the most money to scammers in 2020. led by $621 million in lost California.
  • Most scammers are from Nigeria, China, India, Romania and Mexico, which presents a jurisdictional issue since US law enforcement does not have authority to pursue the con artists.
  • Some of the most scammed countries around the world include the United Kingdom, Canada, United States, Australia, and China.

Several other organizations have also sounded the alarm on the proliferation of COVID-related scams in recent months.

The new schemes include phony vaccination appointment requests, requests for money to obtain a vaccine, fake online delivery notifications and spam sent under the names of agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Over the past year, the FBI's IC3 has fielded over 28,500 complaints related to COVID-19, with scammers targeting both businesses and individuals. 


Source: Equities News

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