8 Internet Catfishing Statistics and Facts to Know

  • By Greg Brown
  • May 01, 2023

8 Internet Catfishing Statistics

The catfishing phenomenon is distinctively modern and sordid. According to the Washington Post, it began when a NY City man was lured into an internet relationship with an attractive 19-year-old in the Midwest. Nev Schulman, a filmmaker, traveled to Michigan to meet the woman to find it was a 40-year-old housewife.

Catfishing entered the global lexicon in 2010: it happens when an internet user creates a fake identity and trolls the internet for unwitting victims to persuade into a relationship. We are all guilty of those vain, little white lies we tell our friends and, most often ourselves. However, good catfishing predators create entire online personas with pictures of the home and pets with backstories.

Scams involving money and material things are emotionally different than betrayals of the heart. Who hasn’t heard the term ”A Woman Scorned?” The meteoric rise in catfishing is a sad commentary of our time, and a linebacker in San Diego knows firsthand the tragedy of malicious catfishing.

Unfortunately, the majority of malicious catfishing involves money rather than romance. However, the good news is there are a lot of defensive strategies happening in the US and around the globe. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov) receives thousands of daily inquiries.

Online Catfishing Statistics

Browsing the Catfishing statistics, from first contact to predators cashing your check, the numbers are staggering. Romance fraud has a different impact on every age group.

The pivot point is 2020 when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic from Covid-19. The pandemic created the ideal conditions for millions to be catfished, creating a fake identity or becoming the victim. The Better Business Bureau and FTC found in 2020 that 50% of eligible daters would consider going online to find a date. 

Looking at statistics for Catfishing, no rhyme or reason exists because no one wants to reveal or report the experience. Even the percentages of catfishing women to men and vice versa are cloudy.

  1. Men are more likely to be catfishing predators and are also more likely to be a victim of catfishing. 64% of women over 40 are the most likely target of predators, while 24% of all catfishers pose as a different gender.
  2. Catfishing scams involve every age group, from 18 to 70+, with every group targeted. The average catfishing scam for victims over 70+ was over $30,000, nearly eight times more than the 30-year-old age group.
  3. The Nigerian Prince scam is still significant, costing victims over $700K annually. In the early 2000s, millions saw an email from a Nigerian Prince who needed help transferring his wealth to an off-shore account. Whoever helped would be rewarded. Criminal organizations are now sending out texts with the same plea and seeing big results.
  4. There are dozens of reasons why a person may want to catfish another, and it may not be as malicious as everyone thinks. Long-term catfishing may start as a simple statement on appearance; however, over time, 41% of respondents say they are lonely. According to the same survey, 33% were concerned with their appearance.

Financial Losses of Catfishing Attacks

Catfishing is a big business in every age group around the globe. Unfortunately, we will never know the true extent of the damage because of embarrassment. However, people are taking action by bringing criminal fraud charges to catfishers, which carries a federal fraud charge.

Catfishers prey on their victims; once hooked, the victim may do just about anything to help their new online friend.

  1. A local news report says the top two states for being catfished are Nevada and Alaska. Nevada for its gambling, with 11.2 catfish victims per capita and lonely hearts, and Alaska for its remote nature. Catfishing has become popular only recently, with 2019 reporting 2,134 cases. The number peaked in 2021 with 9,778 cases, a 358% increase. 
  2. In 2022, the FBI led an independent study: the average quarterly loss of all catfishing attacks in the US stands at $132.5 million. A 214% increase from 2019, when the average loss was a paltry $42 mil. At the start of each year, the average increase is 331%, which is the highest since reporting began.
  3. No rhyme or reason; the state of North Dakota stands out as the state where catfishing victims lost the most money. Only 58 cases were reported, and the money lost was well over $12 million, an average of $209K per person. After ND, there is a significant drop to second place, with Rhode Island at $63,000. Drilling down to which state has the highest number of cases and money lost, Alabama has 259 reported cases and a total of over $6 million.

How to Avoid Catfishing Attacks

Catfishing Reasons

Targeted revenge or finding romance; who knows why a person commits a felony crime to impersonate another? Why is the fundamental question of Catfishing. “Romance Scams” are synonymous with Catfishing, which is the real tell. If we lived in a world where people had no interest in interacting with each other, why catfish?

Social media is the primary source for catfishing meet-ups, lists, and communications. Dating sites to start romance scams are prevalent because predators easily access millions of victims. In 2020, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported over $600 million in losses. Predators simply assume fake identities and troll dating sites like Match.com, Christian Mingle, and PlentyofFish.

Once a predator has inserted his identity into the life of his intended victim, backstories and photos are exchanged, and seeds are set for the scam. Predators create sob stories to hook their victims. Taxes need to be paid to release an inheritance, crippling debt, or personal tragedy are some stories criminals tell the victim. 

  1.  73,000 people dared to report a romance scam in 2022. The amount of money handed over to criminals reached a 10-figure mark. Anyone who chooses to use a dating app should consider the consequences. 50% of the people who use a dating site have experienced catfishing, double the number from five years ago.

To Wrap Up

Do not be an unwitting accomplice to the ever-present threat of catfishing. Everything you do online can cause a predator to take notice.

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