Finding love in the digital age is tough. Who should start the conversation first? Emojis — yes or no? And what if, just when you feel like you found a real connection, they start promoting their crypto trading app? Unfortunately, this won’t fill your bank account. You might be a potential victim of a new pig butchering scam that combines romance scams and cryptocurrency fraud.
Pig butchering uses social engineering to manipulate the target into losing thousands of dollars. So how does it work?
Pig butchering is a type of crypto scam that uses catfishing to gain the victim’s trust and then convince them to join a financial investment scheme. The scam spawned in China, where it’s known as the Chinese phrase Shāz Hū Pán (meaning, literally, “pig butchering”).
The term itself refers to how the cryptocurrency scammers gain the trust of the victim (regarded by the fraudsters as a pig) and “fatten it up” before the butchering — being taken for everything they have.
The scam starts with a text. It can be on social media sites, messaging apps like WhatsApp, or dating apps like Tinder.
Usually, the message sounds like its intended recipient is someone else and the sender just got the number wrong. Something like “Hey, Tom, let’s catch up tomorrow?” but when you tell them they have the wrong person, they keep texting you to build a connection. The second stage of the scam begins.
Now, it’s all about gaining the victim’s trust. Scammers will build a close personal relationship that can go on for weeks or even months.
Then they casually start mentioning how much money they have — fast cars, fancy vacations, even private planes. All thanks to an investment app you’ve never heard of. Maybe you should invest in cryptocurrency as well? They can even give you investment advice.
This is where the third phase of the scam begins — the “fattening up.” The scammer will recommend a specific trading platform for them and you to try together.
To build trust, the scammers will offer making small investments first. You’ll immediately see returns on your investments. The scammer might even encourage you to take out some money, to be sure the platform is legit. But, unfortunately, these are all fraudulent cryptocurrency trading platforms.
Once you start trusting the person behind the con, they’ll encourage you to invest bigger and bigger amounts. If you decide to finish trading or change your mind after investing thousands, they’ll tell you that you need to pay huge fees to get your money back. After that, the scammers disappear. They got all that they needed from you. They butchered the pig.
Even though the scam originated in China, it quickly spread to other countries in southeast Asia. Now, places like Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia, are at the heart of these scams. Especially after China’s government started cracking down on pig butchering scams in their own country.
Pig butchering quickly got the attention of crime syndicates. They “industrialized” the scam, perfected the scripts that get victims to trust their scammers, and then “outsourced” the scamming.
The people doing the scamming are often in trouble themselves — victims of debt, violence, and even human trafficking. People fall for fake job adverts only to end up doing forced labor for a crime syndicate.
When someone targets you for a pig butchering crypto scam, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
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Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from pig butchering scamms.
Check out this video for a comprehensive guide to avoid romance scams, a precursor for pig butchering:
Unfortunately, if you lose money to this type of scam, the chances of getting back your stolen funds are pretty slim. However, there are things you can try.
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