These 5 States Have Lost the Most Money to Online Scams — How To Prepare Ahead of Black Friday as Experts Predict Rise in Fraud

Worried concerned girl in Christmas Santa hat having problems with payment by credit card online for New Year purchases, looking at smartphone screen with puzzled face.
fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Preparing for Black Friday sales might mean setting aside extra cash right now, scoping out teasers online for the deals you may find and even applying for a new credit card with 0% intro APR to cover those holiday purchases.

But your Black Friday shopping prep should also include being wary of scammers and hackers looking to separate you from your hard-earned money and your personal information.

“The risk of being targeted is particularly high as we head into the festive period, as consumers seeking online bargains over Black Friday are likely to be targeted by a surge in cybercriminals looking to take advantage of this increased online activity,” stated a new report from VPNPro.

The organization recently researched the top states for online fraud, based on data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Which states have lost the most money due to cybercrime in recent years?

Top 5 States with Most Losses (Per Person) Due to Cybercrime

The top three states on the list, Alabama, New York and Massachusetts, showed a combined loss of more than $1.25 billion. In general, U.S. victims of online scams lose an average of $18.3K per victim. Nearly half a million Americans reported cybercrime in the past year, the research showed.

StateLossesNo. of VictimsLoss Per Victim
Alabama  $247,930,058 4,893$50,670.36
New York  $777,099,358 25,112$30,945.34
Massachusetts $226,202,504 7,805$28,981.74
South Dakota  $48,072,730 1,691$28,428.58
California  $2,012,806,866  80,766 $24,921.46

States with the Lowest Cybercrime Losses

On the other end of the spectrum, a handful of states seem (relatively) safe from the dangers of online fraud. Led by Vermont, these are the top five states with the lowest instances of cybercrime.

Investing for Everyone
StateLossesNo. of VictimsLoss Per Victim
West Virginia$18,200,4011,846$9,859.37
New Mexico$32,941,9592,589$12,723.82

Protect Yourself from the High Costs of Cybercrime This Holiday Season

Wherever you live, work, and shop, however, it’s important to be vigilant about protecting yourself from cyber-crime. The FBI Internet Crime Report showed that online scams have risen by 127% since 2018. The top five crimes are:

  • Phishing
  • Extortion
  • Personal Data Breach
  • Non-payment/Non-delivery
  • Tech Support Crimes

Phishing leads the way with more than 300,000 complaints nationwide in the past year according to the latest FBI data, as reported by VPNPro. Phishing attacks pave the way for identity theft, financial fraud, and access to unauthorized systems or accounts, which can lead to user data stolen for nefarious purposes.

Expert Tips to Avoid Cybercrime and Online Fraud

Cybersecurity expert Šarūnas Karbauskas from VPNPro emphasized, “Online scams are a major issue for internet users — especially with the festive season coming up. Criminals will look to take advantage of an influx of activity and will target those who are especially vulnerable to theft.”

Noting that older adults may not be familiar with warning signs of fraud, he said that typos in a brand’s name, deals that seem “too good to be true” and pop-up ads are all red flags. “It’s crucial that you don’t give out your personal information unless you’re absolutely sure who’s asking,” he said.

Karl Kaluza, vice president of marketing and communications at Member Access Processing (MAP), agreed that knowing who you’re paying or providing with personal information is important.

“Before making an online purchase, do your research and make sure to verify the validity of the website you are using to make your purchases. Read customer reviews on Google, other review websites, and on social media,” Kaluza said. “Verify the website’s security and make sure the URL is authentic. A simple way to verify a secure channel is to check for a lock icon to the left of the URL at the top of the window.”  

Investing for Everyone

Another simple way to stay safer while shopping online this holiday season is to safeguard your passwords. “Scammers will take advantage of consumers that don’t have multiple authentication factors for their log ins, so make sure to activate Two-Step Verification or other authentication apps,” he added.

A password manager can make it easy to maintain access to your accounts without putting your personal data and logins at risk.

Additionally, Kaluza said, approach every correspondence with a healthy dose of skepticism. “Scammers are sending convincing emails or texts about package shipping information, or bank password reset links. Do not open those links or reply. The same can be said for phone calls about your bank information. End the call and call the direct number to your bank to verify its validity.”

Karbauskas agreed, “Always be cautious of unsolicited emails or phone calls and verify the legitimacy of the sender wherever possible.” 

Final Note

Savvy cybersecurity practices can help you save money and avoid fraud this holiday season. When in doubt of any emails, phone calls or texts, visit the site directly to verify. Pay close attention to typos in emails. Most importantly, trust your gut. If something seems like a scam, it probably is.

More From GOBankingRates

Investing for Everyone


See Today's Best
Banking Offers