There’s a new online epidemic costing Americans millions each year, and it’s something called “catfishing.” It’s when someone is using a fake identity online with the goal of scamming and abusing a targeted victim. Catfishing is most frequently seen in online dating apps.

Online dating has made things easier for everyone. With dating apps and sites you can access on a device that fits into your pocket, dating is now the easiest it’s ever been. But since any stranger’s information is so easily accessible online, this also means more and more people can become targets for scams and catfishing.

Innocent people are taken advantage of every day. It’s something we need to spread awareness of, as even children have found themselves being scammed or lied to online.

Romance scams are crimes where someone pretends to be romantically attracted to another in order to scam them of money. According to Vox.com, in 2018 there were a reported 21,000 romance scams on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day.

A person’s desire to feel affection and attention can lead toward becoming blinded into subconsciously allowing oneself to be taken advantage of by online predators. Not enough people do their research about who they find online and take proper precautions with their own personal information and keeping things safe with who they’re getting to know online.

This year, it could be you or someone you know who is being scammed online. Stay safe, make smart decisions, and spread the word about this growing issue.

Belen Rodriguez is a sophomore at Eisenhower High School.