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Pig Butchering Scams

Before you take investment advice from a new “friend” or online love interest, get familiar with the red flags of pig butchering scams so that you can avoid becoming a victim.

What is a Pig Butchering Scam?

A pig butchering scam is a type of investment fraud that lures individuals into online relationships to build trust before convincing them to invest their money in seemingly legitimate and profitable ventures. Typically, the scammers promise high investment returns within a short period. Pig butchering scammers often use stolen images and fake investment websites to convince victims of the legitimacy of their schemes. Once victims are hooked and have invested money, the scammers suddenly disappear, leaving victims with no way to recover their funds. The term ”pig butchering” is derived from the idea that scammers fatten up their victims with the promise of lucrative returns and allowing small initial withdrawals of purported profits before “slaughtering” or “butchering” them for their money. Drawing its name from the Chinese phrase, Shāzhūpán, pig butchering scams are long-term con jobs that combine elements of romance scams, investment schemes, and crypto asset fraud.

How Does a Pig Butchering Scam Work?

The scam often begins with a seemingly innocent chat initiated by a random person on social media and/or chat platforms. The scammer might claim to have received the target’s number from a mutual friend, while also appearing unsure if they have the correct number. This is just an act to engage the targeted victim in conversation. Scammers have also been known to use images of attractive women to lure victims, preying on their desire for companionship or romance to build trust and establish a connection. As the conversation progresses, the scammer gradually introduces the fake investment scheme and promises significant profits within a short period – but only if the target invests a certain amount. After persuading the target to invest, the scammer collects the funds, often using digital payment platforms or crypto which makes recovering funds or tracking money more difficult. Once the scammers receive money and open an account for them, it will appear the victim’s online account balances grow. The victims usually are able to withdraw at the beginning and this leads them to put in more money. Then, the scammers will suddenly become unreachable, or the brokerage platform will have trouble transferring funds. Watch out for one or more of these characteristics of pig butchering scams:
  • “Wrong number” texts or chat messages. Many pig butchering scams start “by accident.” Scammers send messages via WhatsApp, text, social media, or dating apps pretending they’re trying to reach someone else.
  • No phone or video calls. Scammers employ tactics to avoid direct communication that could reveal their true identity or intentions.
  • Love bombing. Be wary of any new online relationship that moves quickly, especially if you are promised expensive gifts or lavish vacations.
  • Emotional manipulation to build trust. The person texting you may talk about ambitions and goals, and encourage you to do more with your life. The person may then casually mention how much money they spend on large purchases, like cars and holidays. Scammers make these remarks in an attempt to shame you or entice you to do what they want.
  • Investment that has “guaranteed” returns. Within a few weeks of initiating contact over a dating app or text, a scammer will start talking about a highly profitable investment. They will continually bring up investing and encourage you to get involved. They promise you high returns on your investment or tell you about big gains they’ve received recently. They may then direct you to an app or website that promotes guaranteed returns.
  • A “special” app or website. Pig butchering scams use fake crypto trading apps or exchanges with fake account information to make it look like you’re getting a massive return on your investment (so that you’ll keep putting in more money). Even if it seems real, any website or app can be manipulated.
  • Quick, partial return on investment. The platform may seemingly permit small withdrawals at first. And as you invest more, the scammer may hand over communications to the platform’s “customer support”. When you try to withdraw a higher amount of money, the customer support service comes up with various excuses to stop you.
  • Withdrawal fees or taxes. You may receive notifications that your account is frozen and you will lose money if you don’t pay fees. The platform’s “customer support agents” explain there are processing, lending, or compliance fees. They claim you may face an exorbitant tax, which cannot be deducted from your profits.

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