ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - When it comes to internet scams, residents in Missouri and Illinois proved to be some of the biggest victims in the country last year, according to a new report.
The online identity verification website SocialCatfish.com, used information from the FBI, FTC and Internet Crime Complaint Center to find which states lost the most money to online scams in 2020. Americans reportedly lost a record $4.2 billion to online scams.
Illinois and Missouri are the Nos. 6 and 7 most-scammed states, respectively. the study found that people in Illinois lost $150,496,678 and those in Missouri lost $115,913,584. The five most-scammed states are California ($162M), New York ($415M), Texas ($313), Florida ($295), and Ohio ($170M).
The least scammed states in the U.S. were South Dakota ($3.2M), Vermont ($4.1M), West Virginia ($4.8M) New Hampshire ($4.9M) and Wyoming ($5M).
The report also released the five costliest scams and how to avoid them:
1) Business Email Compromise (BEC): $1.8 billion lost in 2020, $96,373 per victim. Business owners must be on alert for scammers infiltrating company email systems. They create a fake email that looks like it is coming from your actual vendor. They send an invoice or email and ask to have payment sent to a new bank account going forward.
How to Avoid: Double check the email address as it is usually off by one letter. Beware of glaring typos or odd requests like needing your employee’s social security numbers.
2) Romance Scams and Confidence Fraud: $600 million lost, $25,272 per victim. Romance scammers steal photos of good-looking people and target lonely singles online. Once the victim falls in love, they start asking for money or gift cards which cannot be traced. Confidence fraud operates the same way by earning the victim’s trust and then asking for money.
How to Avoid: Never give money to anyone you meet online. If they will not video chat or meet, they are a scammer.
3) Investment Scams: $336 million lost, $38,287 per victim. Cybercriminals will offer once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunities via email and social media that promise high rates of return at little to no risk. Once you “invest” you never see your money again.
How to Avoid: Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and investments that seem too good to be true. Research the person and company and consult a third-party financial expert.
4) Online Shopping: $265 million lost, $2,434 per victim. Fake websites are created purporting to be an online store that sells items at a huge discount. If you buy, they pocket the money and never send the item. Moreover, they will steal credit card and personal information for future online theft.
How to Avoid: Make sure the website is not full of typos. If the “customer service” email is “gmail.com” or “yahoo.com” that is a red flag. Research the company and read reviews.
5) Identity Theft: $219 million lost, $5,065 per victim. Scammers steal personal information and use it to access bank accounts, credit cards and even unemployment benefits. They send phishing emails with links and once they are clicked malware infects the computer and steals your information.
How to Avoid: Never post personal information on social media, even your birthday. Use a password manager to create many different passwords so if one is compromised your other accounts are safe.
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