Wilfredo Lee / AP
Friday, April 30, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Nevadans lost more than $6 million last year in online romance scams, making it the 22nd-most “catfished” state in the U.S., according to Social Catfish, a computer dating investigative service.
Catfishing refers to creating a false online identity to build a relationship with someone or scam them out of money.
People in the U.S. lost more than $300 million in computer romance scams last year, according to California-based Social Catfish.
During the pandemic, many people were stuck at home spending more time on social apps and dating websites, and “that’s where the scammers are,” said David McClellan, founder and president of Social Catfish.
“They treat this like a job, and they even call their victims their clients. That’s how disgusting it is,” McClellan said.
The scammers might build an emotional relationship with the victim before asking for money to help pay for rent or some other emergency, he said.
Scams that target men are typically more sexual than emotional, McClellan said.
A common tactic is for a scammer to message a man on Facebook or another social media platform and ask him to switch to Skype. A woman then undresses herself and tells the man to do the same, McClellan said.
The scammer will screen shot the video of him getting naked and tell him if he doesn’t send money, she will to send the pictures to everyone on his friend’s list, McClellan said.
Only about 15% to 20% of people who lose money to a romance scam report it, McClellan said. Other victims are often too embarrassed to come forward, he said.
It’s also a challenge for authorities to prosecute scammers because many perpetrators live overseas in countries like Nigeria, Russia or China, where the United States has no jurisdiction, McClellan said. And romance scams are often regarded as civil rather than criminal matters because the victims gave away their money willingly, he said.
McClellan said people should protect themselves by taking steps such as making sure people they meet online have verified profiles.
They should also be careful about sharing personal information that scammers can use to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards or file for unemployment.
Victims should report scams to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, McClellan said.
If a victim sent a scammer a gift card, they should call the issuing company and try to get a refund, McClellan said. If they transferred money through their bank, they should ask that their account be frozen, he said.