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Pig Butchering Scams: What You Need to Know

Pig Butchering Scams: What You Need to Know

Red heart paper on keyboard computer background. Online internet

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 to invest more money. If a victim attempts to pull a large sum of their investment out of the platform, they will receive messages claiming liquidity issues or other barriers preventing them from withdrawing significant amounts of cash at once. The platform will also encourage the victim to invest additional large sums of money before specific dates to access “premium dividends” or a similar special offer. Once the scammer feels that the victim has invested every possible dollar or sufficiently “fattened the pig,” they will pull the rug out from under the victim, the website will no longer exist, and the fake persona will disappear.

The Fallout

Afterward, victims of Pig Butchering Scams are left with a potent sense of emotional and financial loss. Losing a romantic partner or a significant sum of money is already a harrowing ordeal. Still, the combination of the two and the understanding that they have been scammed can present an incredible burden to bear. Always be extremely cautious when meeting people online. With technological advancements, scammers have become increasingly effective in masking voices in calls or changing their faces on video calls. If you or a family member establish an online relationship with someone and they begin to tell you about a “life-changing investment opportunity,” it is vital to recognize this as a red flag. It likely indicates it would be best to immediately cut ties with this person.

Source: TRM Labs & Darknet Diaries

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