KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new study shows online scammers have broken the $10 billion annual mark for the first time. In 2022, $10.3 billion was stolen by scammers, up from $7 billion in 2021.

The FBI reports America is the most scammed country in the world. In Tennessee, there were more than 7,000 victims of online scams in 2022, losing a total of $113 million.

The study suggests millions of people in America fall for scams because of our reliance on technology. As the Better Business Bureau explains, you can quickly lose your money or personal identity information once you get caught in the scammer’s grip.

One Sevier County woman shared her experience with a scammer in March 2022. Rita, who chose not to share her last name, sent her “boyfriend” sent her cash in priority mail envelopes unaware she was being scammed. Rita was sent a picture of Stefan Hans, her new boyfriend. It was likely stolen from someone’s Facebook page.

She was given directions to take the cash to a Bitcoin depot machine like this one in Sevierville. Rita fell for both a romance and an investment scam.

The FBI and the Federal Trade Commission report an unprecedented rise in romance and investment scams in 2022 with $3.3 billion dollars lost nationwide in investment scams and $735 million dollars in romance scams.

“Well they’re out for your identification, but mostly they’re out for your money. They’re always out for your money and a lot of times they’ll get that by getting your ID,’ said Tony Binkley, President of Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee.

The latest survey from the FBI and Federal Trade Commission cites a rise in Business Email Compromise scams. WATE’s Don Dare received one yesterday. It read “We have received a request to reset your Facebook password.”

“When you don’t request something like that, and you get something that was unsolicited you should stay away from it delete it, don’t respond to it. Because what is going to happen, they’re tying to get your password information which is going to lead to identification which is going to lead them to the money, it’s all about the money,” said Binkley.

He also shared what people should do if they come across an email that is potentially a scam.

“If you are not expecting something don’t respond to it. If you are not expecting an email don’t respond to it. If it is unsolicited stay away from it,” said Binkley.

The report by the FBI said scammers often use encryption tools to conceal their activities and protect their identity. The technology enables scammers to make their phone calls over the internet instead of traditional telephone networks. That’s why the call appears to be from your area code or the bank that you use.

Also, scammers use software to create fake websites and emails, or messages that mimic reputable companies or services. If you are unsure whether the call, email, or message you received is real, don’t respond.