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How Expensive Are Catfishing Scams? See Where Your State Ranks.

How Expensive Are Catfishing Scams?
See Where Your State Ranks

By John Dilley

Pretending to be someone you’re not to dupe people out of money is a scam as old as time. But throwing love and the internet into the mix created a scam all its own known as “catfishing.”

What is catfishing?

Catfishing refers to setting up a fake online profile to target people through dating apps/social media in the hopes of eventually gaining their trust and asking for money.

With social media and online dating apps, scammers have more access to potential victims than ever before. The scammers who catfish use these platforms to find the easiest targets and the biggest fish possible.

Beware of these scheming seductresses and robbing Romeos—they pose a greater danger than you may think. Along with being costly, these scams can be heartbreaking. Many victims develop real feelings for the fictitious identities created by the scammers.

In case you’re wondering how much of a risk this is for you, we found out just how likely you are to be catfished in each state and how much it could cost you. See how we did it below.

Most and least catfishing victims in the US

Obviously, higher populations have more of every kind of people, including catfishing victims. But when you want to know the likelihood of getting catfished in your state, you also need to adjust for population. That’s what you see in the map below, and it tells a different story.

states with the most catfishing victims

The fishing in Alaska is always good, and catfishing is no exception. Alaska leads the country as the place you’re most likely to get catfished.

All five states where you’re most likely to be catfished are in the West, while the numbers are lower in the East.

For example, you’re pretty unlikely to get catfished in Washington, DC, which doesn’t surprise us. It’s only natural that a city full of politicians would know how to stay out of trouble.

A $37,000 catfish better come with solid gold potato wedges.

The real danger of getting catfished lies in how much money you could use.

  • Catfishing victims in Arkansas lost more than a whopping $37,000 per victim, for a total of over $4 million as a state.
  • In a single year, catfished people in the United States lost more than $187 million. That’s an average of more than $15,000 per victim.

Catfishing in Vermont doesn’t net much. Vermont victims lost a total of just under $14,000 to romance scams—less than any other state. That works out to about $626 per victim.

California victims lost close to $30.5 million to online romance scams—more than any other state. While that’s a lot of money, California also had a large number of victims, so the cost was about $19,120 per victim.

If you live in Oregon, stick to the salmon.

Some poor, lonely souls looking for love in Oregon as an escape from the drizzling skies of the Northwest ended up paying a fortune for it. Oregon made the top five in both the likelihood of getting catfished and the average cost per catfish victim.

The South Dakota catfish are rare but cheap.

South Dakota is among the five states where you’re least likely to get catfished and where catfish victims lose the least money per scam.

Don’t be lured into a bad decision.

The internet is a powerful tool that makes life easier. Unfortunately, some people want to exploit that. Here are some tips for navigating dangerous internet waters:

  • Be careful with who you let into your social network and especially your heart.
  • Be wary of anyone asking you for money. Some of these scams can last for years, so even if you’ve been chatting with someone for a long time, that doesn’t mean their intentions are good.
  • If you haven’t met someone in person, don’t send them money.
  • Remember: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

For more tips about avoiding catfishing and how to report it, visit the “Online Dating Scams” section of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website.


We used 2016 FBI romance fraud data, the most recent available at the time of production. The data included the total incidents and monetary loss by victims in each state. We determined the average cost per victim for each state using this data. We then broke the data out by population to determine the likelihood of getting catfished in each state by calculating victims per 100,000 people.

Data Sets

State Rankings of Catfishing Likelihood
from Most to Least

Ranking State
1 Alaska
2 Nevada
3 Colorado
4 Arizon
5 Oregon
6 Virginia
7 Florida
8 Washington
9 Maryland
10 West Virginia
11 Oklahoma
12 New Hampshire
13 New Mexico
14 Arkansas
15 Idaho
16 Maine
17 Kansas
18 Missouri
19 Delaware
20 California
21 Texas
22 Wyoming
23 South Carolina
24 Kentucky
25 Michigan
26 Alabama
27 Vermont
28 Montana
29 Ohio
30 Hawaii
31 Indiana
32 Nebraska
33 Tennessee
34 New York
35 Pennsylvania
36 Minnesota
37 Massachusetts
38 North Carolina
39 Utah
40 Wisconsin
41 Iowa
42 Louisiana
43 Connecticut
44 New Jersey
45 Illinois
46 Georgia
47 Washington, DC
48 South Dakota
49 Rhode Island
50 Mississippi
51 North Dakota

States with the Highest and Lowest Cost per Catfish Scam

State Avg. Cost per Scam
Arkansas $37,267.80
New Mexico $33,867.44
Iowa $28,196.59
Oregon $22,905.94
Washington $21,433.07
Nebraska $20,859.86
Kansas $20,757.37
New Jersey $20,502.65
Michigan $20,096.78
Wyoming $19,970.27
California $19,120.10
Pennsylvania $18,821.56
Alaska $17,881.24
Minnesota $17,265.88
Maryland $16,822.27
Colorado $16,705.77
Montana $16,469.86
Georgia $16,314.01
Illinois $15,438.38
New York $15,239.82
Mississippi $14,886.61
Hawaii $14,790.84
Virginia $14,784.78
Florida $14,730.46
North Carolina $14,392.76
Texas $14,334.34
Delaware $13,194.41
Wisconsin $13,141.53
Ohio $12,242.59
Arizona $11,521.92
Louisiana $11,503.34
Connecticut $11,200.39
North Dakota $10,678.06
Washington, DC $10,547.33
Idaho $10,401.60
Tennessee $10,232.45
Nevada $10,164.32
Missouri $9,469.52
South Carolina $9,453.82
Massachusetts $9,415.51
Alabama $9,223.73
Rhode Island $8,929.25
Kentucky $7,660.80
Indiana $7,036.94
New Hampshire $6,626.44
Oklahoma $6,008.47
West Virginia $4,289.13
Utah $3,598.66
Maine $3,415.32
South Dakota $3,264.45
Vermont $626.27

(Average cost per catfish scam = Total cost of all victims/number of victims)

John Dilley continually offers unique insights and a fresh point of view. He writes for several websites including CableTV.com and HighSpeedInternet.com. Along with writing, John has a passion for music. He is the lead vocalist and secondary guitarist for The Family Gallows in Salt Lake City. John also shares his personal ideas and philosophies through stories he publishes on his blog, JDilley’s Questions.


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