Some of the terminology related to fraud and scams would make you believe that fraud is a recreational activity: phishing, spearphishing or whaling.

Here is a term you might not be familiar with: catphishing — the one word now used to describe romance scams.

Criminals use text messages, telephone calls and emails as their phishing gear and, for the most part, anyone can be reeled in. While this might seem frivolous and sound playful, catphishing is quite lucrative for the criminal. In fact, these romance scams over the past year resulted in record victim losses — $304 million in 2020, compared with $75 million in the previous year. That is an average of $2,500 per victim (nearly $9,500 for victims over the age of 70).

What is particularly stunning is that these numbers are based on data collected by the Federal Trade Commission and do not include information gathered by the FBI, other federal agencies or by local and state authorities.

While phone scams occur frequently, the criminal’s weapon of choice is the computer. Using stock photographs and fabricated profiles,…

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