In recent news, the FBI sent out alerts of a new cryptocurrency investment scam that’s sweeping America, the “pig-butchering” scam. Originating from China, criminals behind this cryptocurrency scheme have expanded their operations to Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. Researchers discovered that organized crime syndicates in China have produced playbooks, guides, and scripts that were distributed to amateur scammers and forced laborers to carry out these cyber scams.
Named in reference to the practice of fattening up a pig before slaughter, this fraud involves a scammer contacting random victims and earning trust overtime before exploiting them through fake investments and disappearing with all their money. These scammers initially ensnare victims by contacting them through SMS texting, social media platforms, or online dating platforms under a fake identity. They strike up a conversation and continue talking to the victim for weeks until they’ve let their guard down. After bonding, the attacker convinces the victim to invest and move their funds into cryptocurrency for a promised high rate of return. Victims are persuaded to send more and more money and are even shown falsified finance statements to convince them further that their investments are making a considerable return. These cybercriminals essentially “fatten up” their unsuspecting victims’ digital wallets, then steal all their money.
These “pig-butchering” scammers typically target vulnerable people such as the elderly, singles on online dating platforms, people with long-term health problems, and lonely people on holidays. Similar to romance scams, “pig-butchering” scams take a heavy toll on victims both financially and psychologically. Just last year alone (2021) there were nearly $430 million in losses reported by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Being aware, educated, and vigilant are the first steps to avoiding these scams.
- Don’t reveal your income or financial status to someone you don’t know
- Don’t reveal personal and sensitive information to people and websites you don’t trust (banking info, social security, passport, etc.)
- Don’t invest, trade, or send money based on the advice of an online “friend”
- Don’t invest in a trading site that promotes unbelievable profits