Catfish Analysis: The Countries with the Highest Rates

It’s the 21st-century and the majority of the world goes online to date. It’s not unheard of to find love on a dating app, but sometimes the person on the other end of the profile may not be who they claim to be. With romance scams on a rise, we have analysed the data to find the countries in which you are most likely to be catfished.

Playing on the emotional triggers of hopeful romantics with the aim of getting them to send money, gifts or personal details, scammers take advantage of people looking to find love online via dating apps, websites or even social media.

Catfishing scams, also known as dating scams or romance scams, have seen a huge increase over the course of the pandemic. As people try to find companionship during these difficult times, fraudsters have used this as a chance to not only leave people broken-hearted but also empty their pockets.

Defined as creating a fake profile to attract someone online, catfishing is a modern term that was coined in 2010 by the producers of the American documentary Catfish. It should be noted that catfishing is not always a romantic relationship, it can also come in the form of family, friends, or business relationships.

Interested to know where the catfish hotspots are, Techshielder has analysed the data to find where the biggest fraudsters live, the cities with the highest number of victims and how much money is lost to find the places you should avoid when looking for love.

Our research found that during the year 2020, dating scams cost the world a massive £157 million, which works out to be an average loss of £12,711 per victim.

The graphic below shows the countries that have been reported for catfishing scams the most, as well as the average amount of money victims have reported lost. 

The average amount of money reported lost by victims was calculated by dividing the overall money lost by the number of reports.

It turns out that the Philippines is responsible for the highest number of dating scam cases. 

Over 1,300 romance fraud cases have been reported against the country, and they are responsible for a whopping £3.2 million in financial loss.

Ranking in second place is Nigeria. With a population of 201 million, the West African country has accounted for 1,129 reports of scams. The total amount of money lost due to Nigerian dating scams is a staggering £12.1 million, this totals to an average loss per victim of £10,700.

Rounding off the top three is Canada. The world’s second-largest country has taken £5.6 million out of love-seekers pockets and has broken 1054 hearts due to catfishing.

Colombia finishes off the top 20. From the ruined cities to the picturesque beaches, Colombia is an adventurous dream, but it is also a place where you’re likely to fall victim to a romance scam. The South American country has been held responsible for 183 dating fraud scams and has swindled victims out of £748,505 in total.

The United Kingdom has scammed the most amount of money with romance scams

A huge driving force for dating scams is the financial gains for the fraudsters. They build trust with the victims with the aim of getting them to send money under false pretences. 

We evaluated the amount of money lost to find the countries stealing the biggest amount of money overall.

The United Kingdom comes in first place. The nation has nearly stolen a total of £25,000,000 from 978 different dating scams, this totals to an average loss per victim of £25,112.

Turkey follows the United Kingdom with a whopping £18,47,683 reported loss from victims, and then it’s Nigeria in third place (£12,101,313).

At the other end of the scale, we have the European country of Iceland. The nation has only accounted for a total of 1 case of dating scam and has stolen no money at all.

Londoners are most likely to be catfished in the UK

In the UK, 5,027 cases of dating scams were reported in the year 2020. Women were most likely to be a victim of dating scams as 57% of victims documented identified as female, 37% were male and the gender of the remaining 6% was undisclosed.

It’s easy to think that vulnerable or older people are the main targets of scammers, but children between the ages of 0 – 9 have also been victims of romance scams, they account for 0.22% of reports. 

The study shows that victims aged 50 to 59 are most likely to fall prey to a catfish — they make up 22% of reports. This is followed by 40 – 49 (19%), 30 – 39 (17%) and then those aged 60 – 69 (14%).

But it’s those living in London that account for the highest number of reports and the biggest amount of money loss overall. 14% of the victims described were Londoners, and they have recorded a £7.2 million loss overall — that works out to be over £10,300 loss per victim.

The image below highlights the UK cities with the highest reports of dating scams:

Behind London, we have the counties Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire. Policed by the Thames Valley Police, those in the counties have been tricked out of a massive £2 million overall. Victims here are mostly females, they account for 57% of reports.

West Midlands come in third. With 209 reports, 4% of catfishing was recorded from this county. Our findings show that those aged 20 – 29 accounted for the highest amount of reports. In total, victims from the West Midlands were conned out of £1.2 million — that works out to be a £9,569 loss per victim.

Cleveland is the place where you are least likely to be catfished in the UK. The county has only reported 26 scams and 50% of the victims were male. On average, the victims lost £4,235 each.

However, it’s Gloucestershire that has the highest average loss per victim (£24,638), North Wales follows behind as the second-highest and Gwent finishes off the top three (£18,966 and £14,257 respectively).

Californians are most likely to be catfished in the US

Dating scam cases are much higher in the United States. In 2020, 20,282 cases of romance scams were reported in the US. Overall, £375 million was reported lost by victims involved in a scam.

Californians have the highest number of reported catfishing, they also have the biggest amount of money loss overall. Recording an overall loss of £86.7 million, which works out to be over £27,800 loss per victim — 15% of victims described were from the state of California.

Florida is the second state in the US where you are most likely to be catfished. 8% of victims were described to be from this state. Victims from Florida involved in dating scams have reported a massive £28,913,844 loss in total.

South Dakota is the state where you are least likely to be catfished. The city has reported a total of 32 romance scams. Victims from this state have declared an overall loss of £421,527.

Michigan has the highest average loss per victim ($50,028), following behind is the District of Columbia and California finishes off the top three ($44,109 and $38,743 respectively).

Those living in New South Wales are most likely to fall victim to catfishing in Australia

During the year 2020, Australians reported 2,946 cases of dating fraud. Overall, a total cash loss of £20,827,354 was reported by victims.

In Australia, February was the most popular month for catfishing. 398 reports were made during the second month of the year. January had the second-highest number of reports in a month, and July was third (382 and 348 respectively).

Social media platform was the most popular method for scammers. 1,201 cases of romance scams happened over social networking sites. Mobile applications were the second most popular (845 reports) and the Internet comes in third (680).

Much like the UK, women were most likely to be a victim of dating fraud. 52.8% of reports were described to have female victims, 45.6% were reported to be male and the remaining 1.6% gender was undisclosed.  

Our research found that those aged 45 – 54 were the most vulnerable to catfishing — they accounted for 18% of reports. This is followed by 35 – 44 years olds (17%), 25 – 34 years olds (15%) and then those aged 55 – 64 (14%).

New South Wales documented the highest number of cases (866) and the highest amount of money lost (£7,283,688). On average, each victim lost a massive £8,411 failing casualty to fraudsters.

Ranking in second place is Victoria. With 670 reports, 20% of victims came from this state. Victorians have recorded a loss of £5,518,516 which averages the total loss per victim to £9,228.

Tasmania is the state where you are least likely to be a victim of catfishing — 53 cases of romance fraud have been recorded during the year 2020. Recording an overall loss of £244,479, the state has the second-lowest total loss.

Queensland has the highest average loss per victim (£9,228), New South Wales follows closely behind and rounding off the top three is Victoria (£8,411 and £6,037 respectively).

How to spot a catfish

When you are starting a new relationship, it can be hard to see the warning signs in anticipation of what the future might look like.

We will often dismiss our gut instinct in the excitement of meeting someone new.

It’s important that we take the time to analyse things about our new partner before it gets too serious and emotions come into the picture, as it is all too easy to throw ourselves into a new romance.

Here are some signs you should be looking out for when dating online:

  • The person offers up good-looking photos and has many stories about their financial success. Oftentimes, if it’s too good to be true, then it usually is. An alarm bell should be ringing If they seem “too perfect”.
  • The person is in a rush to switch modes of communication. Scammers will try very quickly to get you to move to talk by email, messenger, or phone.
  • They move quickly in relationship milestones. They often declare their love for you quickly, or even talk about relationship milestones like marriage or buying a home together early on in your relationship.
  • The person repeatedly postpones video chatting or has an excuse on why they can’t meet you face to face.
  • The person asks for financial support. They may pull on the heartstrings by giving a story about falling on hard times and that the money would be greatly appreciated.

For more information on romance scams or to report a scam, visit the Action Fraud’s website.