Get Gephardt: The ‘most used’ photos to catfish victims in romance scams

Jan 30, 2023, 10:26 PM | Updated: 10:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The FBI says Utahns reported losing over $7.7 million to romance scams in 2021, but the total is likely much higher. The criminals conjure up fake bios using fake photos to woo their victims.

The website Social Catfish says it analyzed reverse image searches from its 10 million users to determine the list what it calls the “100 Most Catfish Photos of 2023.” Each of the photos were used a bunch of times in the past year to rip off people looking for love.

“We started talking and he was so sweet,” Dianne told us last year, after meeting a man through a dating app.

He socially engineered her into thinking she was investing in cryptocurrency, but it turned out he was stealing that money from her to the tune of $187,000.

“I started throwing it up. I was so sick to my stomach,” she said. “I went into shock.”

Utah woman loses $187,000 to scammer posing as cryptocurrency investor

Alas, Dianne’s story is far from unique.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a record $547 million was lost to romance scams in 2021. That year, the Better Business Bureau moved “Scams related to crypto-currency” up to the second riskiest based on the sheer number of people getting ripped off and for such large amounts.

“These types of things are extremely common,” said Alex Hamerstone of the cybersecurity firm, TrustedSec.

He said the number of victims is likely much higher than we know. Victims often do not report getting scammed to avoid ridicule.

“People are really ruthless,” Hamerstone said. “A lot of people will blame that victim — they should have known better, whatever else it is — and that’s really led to people not wanting to report these things.”

The men and women in the photos deemed as the most used for catfishing people in romance scams by Social Catfish never gave permission for their images to be used in scams. Their pictures were likely stolen from their social media accounts and repurposed by a crook to target others.

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Get Gephardt: The ‘most used’ photos to catfish victims in romance scams