In our digital world, it’s not uncommon for people to have virtual relationships. Between social media sites and online dating platforms, it’s fairly easy to strike up a conversation with someone new. While there are many benefits to connecting with people online, it has its drawbacks as well.
In the last few years, a growing number of people have fallen victim to catfishing, a deceptive, and often costly, online con.
Records show 18,000 people were victims of catfishing, or romance fraud, in 2018, according to the FBI. Many experts believe the actual number of catfishing cases is much higher, but many people don’t report it out of embarrassment.
Aside from being deceptive and embarrassing, catfishing results in the biggest financial losses to victims compared to other online crimes. Reported losses in 2018 exceeded $362 million, which is 70% higher than it was the previous year, according to the FBI.
BestVPN wants to know just how prevalent catfish is and which states are hardest hit. By collecting and computing years of state-by-state catfishing data from the FBI database, we are able to reveal stunning data on the state of catfishing.
Before we dive into the data, let’s define catfishing.
Catfishing is the act of deceiving someone online. A “catfish” assumes a fake identity, starts an online relationship with someone, and gains their trust. With trust established, the catfish usually sets a trap that swindles people out of money.
One of the most common ways for catfishing to take place is through a dating app. The con artists sets up a fake profile, befriends someone on the site, and starts a conversation. Scammers are talented. They say the right things, ask questions, and take an interest in a person’s life. Once the relationship “feels real,” the con artist starts asking for money.
For instance, the scammer might make plans to meet their new love, but suddenly can’t afford the trip and ask for money. Often, the money is taken, but the con artist comes up with a reason for not coming, like getting arrested or dealing with a family emergency. That prompts another request for money.
Another ploy is to ask newly-found friends to be part of a lucrative business deal or investment. The requests will continue until the victim says no.
A catfish could be conning multiple people at one time, and requesting money from all of them.
The number of reported catfishing cases varies across the U.S. Data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center shows several states with more than 1,000 reported cases of catfishing.
Texas has the highest number of reported cases, with 1,238 cases on the books. Florida is also north of 1,000 cases, sitting at 1,191. New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington round out the top five states with the highest reported cases of catfishing.
The state with the fewest catfishing cases is Vermont, with just 25 reported cases in 2018. South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota, and District of Columbia, all have 36 cases or less.
Wondering where your state ranks? Here’s a look at the number of cases reported in each state.
While Texas has the highest number of reported catfishing cases, that number alone doesn’t take into account the state’s population, how much money is typically lost per scam, and how prevalent the problem has been in the last two years.
With those factors in mind, BestVPN crunched the numbers and created a ranking.
The results show Alaska is the most dangerous catfishing state.
Alaska has the highest number of catfished victims per capita, at 11.5. Plus, residents of The Last Frontier lost $1 million in 2018 to catfishing scams.
Nevada, Wisconsin, Washington, California round out the top five most dangerous states for catfishing, according to our rankings.
Catfishing happens regardless of borders, but our research shows that some states are more prone to this online deception than others. The heatmap below represents our rankings, showing the most dangerous states in (dark blue) and the least dangerous in (light blue).
Residents in Vermont and South Dakota are the least likely to fall prey to catfishing. It ranks at the bottom on our list, with the number of catfishing victims per capita at 0.06 in both states.
The smallest losses from catfishing occurs in these states as well. Catfishing cost Vermont residents just under $100,000 in 2018, and residents of South Dakota lost about $130,000 in the same year. While that’s still a significant amount of money, it’s drastically lower than Alaska’s $1 million+ loss in 2018.
Montana, South Carolina, and Mississippi, are also quite safe.
Whether you live in a highly catfished state or not, everyone should take precautions online, especially when using online dating sites. To stay safe online, here are some tips to follow:
Don’t send money – ever
No matter what the circumstance, don’t ever send someone money to someone you’ve met online. If you do send money, and realize after the fact that you’ve been scammed, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever get your money back.
Never give out sensitive information
There are certain things you should never reveal about yourself. For example, sensitive information that could make you a victim of a crime, like your bank account number, credit card number, or social security number should never be shared.
In addition, you should never open a bank account for someone either.
Use a VPN
To add an extra layer of security, consider using a VPN, or virtual private network, while you’re online. It creates a secure connection, keeps your browsing history private, can mask your location, and helps prevent crimes like identity theft.
Do some online research
When you meet someone online, Google their name and see what comes up. You should also run a reverse search on their profile picture to make sure the picture isn’t attached to several different identities.
Explore the person’s social profiles and look at pictures with friends, a history of activity, and a good number of friends. A profile with five friends, two posts, and no pictures with friends or family should serve as a red flag.
Beware of talking off the dating site
Scammers know that dating sites track conversations, so they often ask to move the conversation to another platform. They might ask for your phone number to text, for example. If you’re asked to chat on your personal cell phone immediately, there’s probably a reason.
Watch for common themes
Catfishers tend to use the same deceptive themes. As you connect with people online, be on the lookout for people who say they’re from the U.S., but currently live or work overseas. Scammers might say they’re in the military serving abroad since this position instantly evokes a sense of respect and trust. In time, they have some sort of financial crisis that requires your help.
Catfishing is a threat to anyone communicating online. It’s important to understand what catfishing is and which states are dangerous. Catfishing is rampant in Alaska, according to our rankings, but no matter where a person resides, taking safety precautions online should be a priority.
|Rank||State||Victims per 100K||Victim loss per 100K||Change from 2019|
BestVPN.org collected the most recent Internet crime complaints from the FBI's UCR Crime website (for the years 2017 and 2018). Of the various crime complaints, Romance Fraud type complaints were normalized with state populations (for 2018) to get the totals per 100,000 and the overall state safety score.
This decade, advances in communications technology and the ubiquity of the internet have pushed the issues of digital rights and privacy from out of the realm of niche technological fields and into the forefront of daily life for everyone with a mobile phone or a social media account.
If you have ever logged onto Facebook or performed a Google search, news stories regarding the NSA PRISM surveillance program and Cambridge Analytica scandal should have you rightly concerned about governmental and corporate threats to your online privacy and data protection.
However, news about digital rights and online privacy issues comes out at a rapid clip, with policy decisions and governmental regulation ever changing in the face of evolving threats and technology.
In order to educate internet users on these related topics, and point would-be activists in the right direction, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of organizations dedicated to advocating for digital rights and policy in the United States and around the world, as well as a list of guides, apps, and other great resources allowing people to enhance their internet security and avoid falling prey to online surveillance and the actions of bad actors on the web.
All of the links are up to date, and most organizations’ websites provide easy instruction on how you can participate in their campaigns or support them financially.
There’s no feeling like the trepidation one experiences at the outset of a large research project. Where does one begin? What is the best sequence of steps to take in completing the research? Using the internet to do research poses some issues: while it may seem that having so much information at one’s fingertips should make academic research a less time-consuming endeavor, the sheer amount of stuff out there can make it hard to know which sources to fully trust.
In this guide, we’ll explain the most efficient way to conduct online research, how to assess the legitimacy of sources, how to cite them the correct way, and conclude with a broad list of resources spanning a multitude of fields. No sense in getting lost in the quest for citation-worthy academic sources, it’s all right there in front of you..
The research topic you choose has a huge effect on the outcome of your assignment: select a topic that’s broad and well trodden and there will be little to distinguish your work from others, while if you select a topic that’s too obscure, and it will be a struggle to gather relevant research.
The correct path lies in the middle ground: the right balance of background resource availability and uniqueness.
Here’s a sequence of steps to get you on your way:
First of all, for general searches, always use Google. Unless you are in China where the site is banned and you do not have a VPN subscription (in which case, you’ll have to use Bing), Google will bring you the best results.
A few tips on improving your Google searches:
Of course, if you are looking for academic resources, i.e., psychological studies, mathematics papers, etc., a Google search won’t cut it. You’ll have to choose an academic search site focused on a specific field of study. Quite a few of these websites are listed below, sorted by field.
Over twenty years into its existence, there’s still a bit of a “wild west” feel to much of the internet, where a lot of information presented as credible is actually inaccurate, or from dubious sources with certain agendas.
Generally, if you stick to the databases and archives listed below, and cite from peer-reviewed sources, you’ll be okay. To be sure of the credibility of a source, Google search it to gather background information that can verify its legitimacy.
Another thing to avoid is predatory open access publishers running low quality journals that charge fees to hopeful authors without granting them the resources or clout associated with legitimate journals. Using sources from these types of publishers begets an unethical practice.
Go here to find a list of predatory journals.
When you use information from a source in your work, even if it’s paraphrased (phrasing the information using your own words), you must cite it, or else what you are doing qualifies as plagiarism.
Best to err on the safe side: some professors are extremely strict about plagiarism, and being accused of the practice can have serious consequences, including suspension or even expulsion.. When in doubt--even if the material reads like general background information--cite your source.
Furthermore, you should be careful about reusing material from previous essays you’ve written. Self-plagiarism is a real thing, and if you repeat yourself without citing the previous work, you are guilty of it.
Run your work through this free plagiarism checker to be sure you are in the clear.
When citing sources in your work, it’s important to be consistent and stick to a specific citation style throughout the work. Likely, your teacher or professor will prefer one of three main styles be utilized. These styles are the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA) and Chicago styles. The rules for each of these styles is extensive, and citations will vary based on the type of source cited. It’s best to follow a thorough guide for each. Here’s one for each style:
This list of research databases and other helpful sources should be a boon to any young researcher. Some sites require a subscription (which may be granted to you simply for being a student), while others are free for anyone to use.
More than ever, teachers necessitate internet research as a required component of out of school assignments, even at the elementary and middle school levels. With the amount of inaccurate and out of date information on the internet, finding the right websites to use when writing papers or working out tough math homework can be a difficult proposition, particularly for young students without a lot of experience navigating the web.
While Wikipedia is a great site for finding out some quick information or building your general knowledge base, the overwhelming majority of teachers will not accept it as a valid source in assignments due to the unverifiable nature of the info.
This could work sometimes, but isn’t the best approach. Again, the web is full of pages with misleading, inaccurate information and poorly written articles that come up even on the first page of Google search results.
The best sources for elementary students to use are those connected with a major academic institution, like a well-known university, a government sponsored agency or institution, like the CDC or NASA, or a website connected to a highly regarded organization or museum. Websites sponsored by such organizations are best trusted to provide accurate and up-to-date information on a given topic.
To help out, we’ve created this database of links to trusted sources dedicated to helping kids find assistance with their homework, research their papers, or just unwind with some games after finishing their workload for the evening. There are many of collections of research links with kids in mind, but a substantial portion of them haven’t been updated in years and are full of broken links, or just plain ugly, out-of-date websites.
Not the case with our database. We’ve ensured that each and every link in this archive is valuable and satisfies its purpose, whether that be to help with statistics homework, or write a paper about trailblazing, underappreciated women in history. Additionally, we’ve included resources for parents and teachers, as well. We hope that you all get the most out of this database.
The moment you begin using technology to keep your young children busy, they get exposed to online threats. So it’s never too soon to take proactive measures to protect your children online.
As your kids grow up, they learn to navigate apps, games, online stores, social networks, dating sites, and virtual worlds. By early teens, they become Internet-savvy and self-confident and want to explore more of what the Internet has to offer. That’s when monitoring their online behavior may no longer be enough because they learn how to bypass your safeguards.
You need to teach them privacy and safety basics before they strike out for online independence.
The best way to protect your children online is to equip them with necessary skills and tools and make sure they know what to do – or where to ask for help – when you’re not there to check in on them.
This guide helps parents make sense of the online threats relevant to different age groups – from young children to teens. It also dwells on how families can:
Smartphones are ubiquitous across households and children are the fastest growing group of smartphone users.
But while some suggest smartphone addiction has adverse effects on children’s mental health, others are more concerned about predators, cyberbullying, sexting, malware, identity theft, and inappropriate content.
Before your child gets her first smartphone (at the age of 10, if stats don’t lie), she’ll be playing and watching videos on your phone.
It makes sense to lock in-app purchases on your devices before you discover your kids have spent a few hundred dollars on Smurf’s Village or Candy Crush.
Apple once got into hot water with parents for not providing enough safeguards against unauthorized use of IAPs by children. After Cupertino had to settle a $100M class-action lawsuit, all tech giants beefed up their safeguards and policies. Therefore, you’re the only person responsible for controlling the money your kids spend on gems, tokens, and crates.
Trust me on this – you can’t entirely rely on Apple and Google to vet games for kids properly at all times. Too many factors are at play here, and what’s been rated as appropriate for all ages may turn out to be a violent game, have explicit imagery, or worse.
Notorious was the Roblox incident when some parents discovered their children were abused online by predators when exploring the open world of a mobile game. Little has changed after the news went viral, and Roblox is still among the top mobile games for kids.
Likewise, games like Kick the Buddy sport 4-5-star ratings on iTunes and Google Play while parents who bothered to check it were awed by the explicit violence it glorifies.
70% of unwanted exposure to inappropriate content occurs in the home. When young kids browse the Internet unsupervised, it’s only a matter of time when they navigate to a page full of explicit material.
Camfecting, or webcam hacking, is the reason Mark Zuckerberg covers his laptop’s webcam with non-transparent duct tape. Unfortunately, young children are under a far greater danger of becoming the targets of webcam hackers.
The problem isn’t just in your laptop, smart TV, or a smartphone. Many smart toys and baby monitoring devices come with embedded webcams.
Monitoring devices’ primary purpose is to let you keep an eye on your baby while she sleeps. Unfortunately, developers of smart toys and baby monitoring gadgets rush to push a product onto the market ahead of the competition. Too often, they neglect security, so smart Internet-of-Things gadgets come loaded with vulnerabilities.
DDoS attacks that use IoT microwaves, smart fridges, and CCTV cameras aren’t new. But predators hacking baby monitoring devices to watch young kids make for a far more sinister reality than a DDoS attack.
One Washington family realized their baby monitor was hacked when the hacker spoke to their son through it, saying “Wake up little boy, daddy’s looking for you.” In Indiana, a mother heard “Every Breath You Take” playing through her baby monitor accompanied by “sexual noises.”
Don’t let kids play with devices that store your sensitive information, especially if you use that device under a BYOD policy at work. Kids can download ransomware or spyware that can expose your personal or work data.
Sometime between elementary and middle school, most kids learn to rely on the Internet for entertainment, socialization, and help with homework or school projects.
Smartphone or tablet is no longer the only gateway to the online realm. They master other Internet-connected devices such as consoles, smart TVs, computers, and laptops – the threat landscape increases significantly.
But this is also the right time for parents to step up online privacy talks and teach their kids basic cyber security notions.
Online gaming – through consoles, PCs, and smart TVs – have long been the source of parental concerns since many games feature sexual or violent content.
But open-world games, the so-called virtual worlds, where players can freely roam the game’s realm and chat with others, often harbor predators and bullies. It’s not uncommon when kids get cyberbullied or harassed by other players.
Younger kids might not be overly interested in texting. But by middle school, they get more interested in socializing with their peers.
When chat apps and social networks become a part of your kids’ lives, it’s time to have a talk about “stranger danger online.”
Let’s assume you control how your children’s photos are shared among your friends and family on social networks. But once your children go to school, you have to rely on their teachers to protect their privacy online.
Sharing photos online has become so commonplace most people don’t give it a second thought, unfortunately.
As a parent, you are your child’s first line of defense against online predators.
Unfortunately, the Internet provides pornographers and pedophiles with an unprecedented opportunity to target victims. No longer do they lurk around school playgrounds because they search for their victims while hiding behind a computer screen, a fake identity, and other anonymizing tools.
An online predator isn’t someone you’d normally view as such. It’s a well-adapted, functional and maybe even successful individual who:
Online predators often introduce themselves to their targets as teens of the opposite gender – someone who the victim would be interested in talking to. They emulate the teen writing style and vocabulary, and have easily accessible images of teens to use as their profile photo.
Grooming is the process in which a predator gains a child’s trust. It may begin with a child’s favorite sports team, but predators often build it around the teen’s yearning for romance or sexual information.
A predator is an excellent listener; he sympathizes with the child’s problems and supports her choices. At the same time, he exploits a child’s natural sexual curiosities, and gradually introduces the topic into their conversations (via text or pornography).
A predator is generous in sending gifts, money, and attention. But the crucial point of grooming is driving a wedge between the victim and his or her parents (either through promises of an exciting experience or threats and blackmail).
The following red flags in your child’s behavior may signal the presence of an online predator:
Did you know that:
It’s imperative that parents befriend their kids on social networks and keep an eye open on their activities. When a child’s online behavior gets risky (posting sensitive information, chatting with and befriending strangers), it’s high time to have another stranger danger conversation, but this time – the explicit version.
Avoid over-reacting when spotting something suspicious. Instead, ask if their new online friend has:
If you suspect your teen might be a predator’s target:
Reasoning with kids may get tough during puberty. Hormonal changes coupled with a yearning for more freedom, independence, experiences, and privacy may make it difficult for parents to monitor and protect their kids online.
At the same time, teens become increasingly dependent on peer approval and pressure to share. They may engage in risky or regretful behavior to gain popularity.
As social networks take center stage in teens lives, enter cyberbullying and trolling. Some engage in cyberbullying, while others become their victims. It’s not uncommon when teens engaging in online harassment become victims themselves.
Cyberbullying occurs across all major social networks and takes many forms:
Having your most private information posted online for the world to laugh is devastating to an adult, let alone a kid. The consequences can be far-reaching – from health problems to hampered employment opportunities at a later point.
Trolling, or making deliberately offensive, degrading, provocative comments is somewhat different from cyberbullying. Whereas cyberbullying is persistent, trolling can be a one-off and aims to incite an emotional response from the victim and disrupt a conversation.
Researchers state fewer than half of children bullied online share their struggle with their parents. Some are concerned about their parents’ efforts to stop bullying will only make it worse.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to treat cyberbullying as a serious threat. Again, befriend your kids on social networks and keep tabs open on their timeline and peer comments:
The pressure to overshare may urge teens to disclose private information online. There are multiple problems with oversharing on social networks:
Teach your kids about safe social media behavior:
Teens are tech-savvy and independent enough to customize their devices and experience without adult supervision. But many apps and games are expensive or too difficult to beat.
Enter cheats, hacks, and doctored software. More often than not, sites distributing pirated software and games also distribute malware, spyware, ransomware, and other badware.
P2P has taken piracy to a new level, but the problem is it’s hard to persuade avid torrenters to stop downloading pirated movies and games.
From installing malware to exposing themselves to offensive content, kids also can get their whole family in trouble with copyright trolls and Internet Service Providers.
Possible solutions include:
As a parent, you need to understand what your kids are doing online, what games they like and why, and what challenges they face. There’s no way you can do this by simply talking about their online privacy.
You need to participate in their online lives – play their games, try their apps, visit their websites and share experiences. While you do, read the services’ ToS and Privacy Policies.
This way, you know what they’re up to online but also remain in their closest circle of trusted adults.
As your kids get used to shopping online, it gets hard to resist the urge to invest in a solid identity theft protection service. Otherwise, you need to monitor your credit reports and bank statements religiously.
The selection of anti-identity theft apps and services is ample. The benefits include timely notifications about suspicious charges and a faster way to report stolen cards or hacked accounts.
One of the biggest issues with teen dating services is the mismatch between how easy “hooking up” is on these platforms and teens’ failure to appreciate the safety risks and privacy consequences.
Stalking, harassment, and sexting are topped by online predators frequenting teen dating sites specifically.
Technology, when used appropriately, provides excellent benefits. But when it comes to teaching your kids cybersecurity and privacy, face-to-face interaction is essential because you need to embed trust into your relationship. No parental monitoring app can do that for you.