Pig Butchering Crypto Scam
PIG BUTCHERING: AN UGLY SCAM WITH AN UGLY NAME
The term “pig butchering” refers to a time-tested, heavily scripted, and human-intensive process of using fake profiles on dating apps and social media to lure people into investing in elaborate scams. In a more visceral sense, pig butchering means fattening up a prey before the slaughter.
“The fraud is named for the way scammers feed their victims with promises of romance and riches before cutting them off and taking all their money,” the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned in April 2022. “It’s run by a fraud ring of cryptocurrency scammers who mine dating apps and other social media for victims and the scam is becoming alarmingly popular.”
The people creating these phony profiles are largely men and women from China and neighboring countries who have been kidnapped and trafficked to places like Cambodia, where they are forced to scam complete strangers over the Internet — day after day.
The most prevalent pig butchering scam today involves sophisticated cryptocurrency investment platforms, where investors invariably see fantastic returns on their deposits — until they try to withdraw the funds. At that point, investors are told they owe huge tax bills. But even those who pay the phony levies never see their money again.
The come-ons for these scams are prevalent on dating sites and apps, but they also frequently start with what appears to be a wayward SMS — such as an instant message about an Uber ride that never showed. Or a reminder from a complete stranger about a planned meetup for coffee. In many ways, the content of the message is irrelevant; the initial goal to simply to get the recipient curious enough to respond in some way.
Those who respond are asked to continue the conversation via WhatsApp, where an attractive, friendly profile of the opposite gender will work through a pre-set script that is tailored to their prey’s apparent socioeconomic situation. For example, a divorced, professional female who responds to these scams will be handled with one profile type and script, while other scripts are available to groom a widower, a young professional, or a single mom.
The other method of hooking victims involves posting fake profiles on dating websites. Once again, the scammer will exchange messages with potential victims for a very long time before broaching the subject of investments and cryptocurrency.
“Why would someone just keep putting in more money once they find out that withdrawing it is going to require putting in more?” you may ask. Pig Butchering victims who rack up serious losses generally are falling for the sunk-cost fallacy; they’ve already deposited $20,000, so what’s another $10,000, especially if it might mean walking away with a quarter million?
Also, keep in mind that some more sophisticated versions of this scam may allow the victim to withdraw some of their funds early in the scheme, when the amounts deposited are small, as a way to “prove” that it’s a legitimate investment. Later, when the victim believes their investment has grown to half a million dollars, another $30,000 might not seem unreasonable. After all, they were able to successfully withdraw $100 that one time, right?
To avoid being “fattened up” for this scam, first watch out for “wrong number” text messages. These usually include someone else’s name (the fake intended recipient) and references to some mundane- but-specific subject. You can be cordial, but don’t take the bait if the stranger seems to want to continue talking. They’ll get around to their investment scam eventually. Also, those photos aren’t really him or her.
On dating websites, the same rules apply to avoiding other types of Romance Scams: as soon as they bring up investing, guaranteed returns, or cryptocurrency, block them and cut off all contact. You don’t want what they’re offering.