CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia loses the least amount of money to online scams, compared to every other state.

West Virginians lost $10 million to online scams last year, up from $5 million in 2020, according to a new study by consumer protection company Social Catfish.

According to the study, the average victim in West Virginia lost $4,428 to online scams last year. While the total amount lost doubled, West Virginia actually lost the least to online scams when Social Catfish broke down the amount lost by state. Californians lost the most at $1,227,989,139 total, or $18,302 per average victim.

The amount of money lost to online scams per state. Credit: Social Catfish.

The study resulted in other interesting findings:

  1. A record $6.9 billion was lost in 2021 nationwide, which according to Social Catfish, means the amount lost yearly to online scams since the start of the pandemic has doubled.
  2. Despite stereotypes, 75% of romance scam victims are college educated. Social Catfish polled 3,074 victims and found that 2,305, or 75%, were college educated, and 13% earned graduate degrees.
  3. Middle and lower-class Americans, which Social Catfish considered those who make less than $100,000 a year, made up 84% of romance scam victims.
  4. Teenagers are now losing money to online scams at a higher rate than seniors. Social Catfish’s poll found a 1,125% increase in money lost to online scams in the last five years for victims younger than 20—the highest increase of any age group. The increase for seniors was 390%.
  5. A record $1.6 billion was lost to cryptocurrency scams in 2021, up almost seven-fold from $246 million in 2020 according to FBI statistics.

The study got its data from three sources:

  • Researchers analyzed the most recent annual reports released in 2022 by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission on online scams.
  • Social Catfish conducted its own poll of 3,047 romance scam victims from May to August 2022 over email.
  • The company works with a reformed Nigerian romance scammer who provided it with a leaked romance scammer training manual.

Social Catfish also shared some advice about how to avoid online scams:

  • Do not give money or personal information to anyone you have never met in person.
  • When in doubt, perform a reverse search using photos, emails, phone numbers and addresses to verify if the person you are speaking to online is who they say they are.
  • Look for red flags like poor grammar, refusing to video chat, claiming to be in the military, working overseas or asking to be paid in gift cards or cryptocurrency.
  • Use a password manager to create many passwords so if one has been compromised the rest of your accounts are protected.