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Pig Butchering Scams: What You Need to Know

The next scam in our blog series covers a more complex scam that has plagued victims with financial and emotional stress: Pig Butchering Scams. These scams are complex in that they use advanced social engineering techniques that combine elements of both Romance Scams and Investment Scams. These scams have produced back-breaking financial losses in recent years and have even driven some victims to suicide. It is vital to understand how these scams work to protect yourself and those you care about. Why is it called Pig Butchering? Pig Butchering scams originated in 2019 in Southeast Asia and were coined “Shā Zhū Pán” which directly translates to “Killing Pig Plate,” the reason for this is that this scam is focused on completely wiping out a victim’s assets, or “take the whole pig.” How Does it Work? The fraudster will initially reach out to potential victims in the same fashion as in a Romance Scam, creating a fake online persona and then working to establish a relationship with a victim. Once the scammer has established a line of trust, they will work to gather information about a victim to identify any potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Some examples of what scammers will recognize as an emotional vulnerability include a recent divorce or breakup, loss of a job, loss of a family member, or someone who is in an abusive relationship. Vulnerabilities such as these make the victim more receptive to an online relationship and less likely to question whether the person they are talking to is trustworthy. Once the scammer has established a line of trust with the victim, they will begin to tell them about recent investments they have made that have garnered life-changing returns, generally in cryptocurrency. This is where aspects of a traditional Investment Scam come into play. Scammers will mask webpages full of fake information to appear as though they are credible, trusted sources. The websites are so realistic and effective that even cybersecurity professionals have been tricked into falling for this scam. Once the victim is ready to “invest,” the scammer will direct them to a website or app to make their investments. As accurate as it may appear, the website or app is never legitimate. Once a victim has made their initial “investment,” they can monitor their balance on the fraudulent website, observe they are receiving returns, and even pull their money out. Scammers allow victims to pull money out of the investment platform initially because it makes victims trust the platform more and the fake persona they are in a relationship with. From here, the scammer will target the victim via the fake persona and the investment website by encouraging further investment to maximize returns. With the website showing incredible earnings and the apparent ability to withdraw funds at will, victims will often begin pouring money in. Beyond placing their life savings into the platform, victims have gone as far as taking out a second mortgage on their homes and taking out personal loans […]

Common Romance Scams in 2024

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is important to be wary of Romance Scams (also called Love Scams). In a romance scam, scammers target individuals by creating a fake online persona (through social media, email, etc.) and then making romantic advances at the targeted individuals. The scammer will then attempt to connect emotionally with the victim to gain their trust enough to either ask or blackmail the victim for money. These scams can appear in a variety of ways; below are some of the most frequent examples: Photo Scams A photo scam takes place when a scammer tries to convince their victim to send over sensitive personal information in exchange for intimate photos from the scammer. A reverse of this is also known to occur when a scammer coerces the victim to send intimate images; upon receiving these photos, the scammer will then use them as leverage to blackmail the victim. If your online love interest seems insistent on obtaining your personal information or sends continuous requests for intimate photos, particularly ones that include your face, it is vital to recognize these signs as red flags. Fake Dating Website Scams        Online dating has exploded in popularity in recent years, with online dating app users increasing from around 200 million users in 2015 to nearly 340 million in 2022. With such rapid growth come many new apps and websites looking to capitalize on this growing market. While some of these upstarts are trying to help you find love, others are scammers looking to manipulate victims and steal their information. These scams involve creating a website under the guise of a typical dating website. However, the user base is either full of scammers who will pry victims for information or the user base is incredibly small so the scammer can steal any info they can get when victims “register” for the site. Reminder, it is important to vet any website before signing up and offering personal information. Military Romance Scams Scammers will also try to manipulate victims by impersonating members of the military. These scams revolve around creating a compelling fake military persona and convincing victims they require financial assistance. In this scam, scammers will use a high volume of military-related terms and offer an official title or rank to gain the victim’s trust. They will then claim they need money to cover certain expenses. The most common request for funds is for “flights home” or even flights to visit the victim. In both scenarios, the scammer will simply pocket the money, make an excuse about how they couldn’t come home, and continue to ask for money from the victim. When exploring a relationship with anyone online, it is of the utmost importance to verify that they are who they say they are; failure to do so can lead to catastrophic financial consequences. These are just a few examples of Romance Scams; many more methods exist, and more will come in the future. Protecting yourself and staying informed on how and when you […]

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