The threat posed by online scams has increased significantly in recent years. There are now more ways than ever before to find yourself the victim of online fraud. One of the more sophisticated examples is known as pig butchering.
Pig butchering is part romance scam and part investment scam. It combines the fake relationship of the former with the fake promises of wealth associated with the latter. For many victims, it is an expensive and painful process.
So what exactly is pig butchering, and how can you avoid falling victim to it?
What Is Pig Butchering?
Pig butchering is a sophisticated online scam that relies on social engineering and fake cryptocurrency exchanges. It gets its name from the fact that the victim is first fattened up with a fake romantic relationship before being butchered using fraudulent investment advice.
The perpetrators are known for being very patient, slowly building up trust, and then encouraging the victim to invest increasingly large amounts. The victim is made to believe that they are making money when in fact, anything that they deposit cannot be recovered.
How Does Pig Butchering Work?
Pig butchering is an elaborate scam with many variations. The exact steps vary but it typically occurs as follows:
Victims of the scam are initially contacted via social media, chat apps, and dating websites. The perpetrator is invariably an attractive person of the opposite sex. The photos and information used are entirely fake.
Initial interactions typically consist of ordinary conversations without any mention of an investment opportunity. During this time, the perpetrator is attempting to build trust and/or attraction. The success of the scam is largely based on the perpetrator’s ability to achieve these goals.
At some point, the conversation turns to cryptocurrency investment. The perpetrator will claim to be a successful trader and will talk about their recent profits. They are likely to share screenshots. They will then casually offer to teach the victim how to make money in the same way.
Should the victim decide to invest, they will be told to create an account on a particular cryptocurrency exchange and to deposit a small amount. The victim will then be able to watch as their initial investment increases in value.
This is easy for the perpetrator to achieve because the exchange being used is fake. The fake exchanges are designed to be highly realistic, but the profits generated are nonexistent.
At this point, the victim is encouraged to invest a larger amount. Due to the romantic relationship and the evidence of previous profits, the victim is often convinced to invest increasingly large amounts.
During the scam, the victim is usually allowed to withdraw small amounts. This is to demonstrate that the exchange and trades are legitimate. The victim typically only learns about the theft when they attempt to withdraw a larger amount.
When the victim attempts to do so, they will be told that they first need to pay taxes on their profits. This can only be achieved by making an additional deposit. Regardless of whether the victim pays this fee, the profits are non-existent and anything invested can never be withdrawn.
Why Is Pig Butchering Effective?
Pig butchering is effective because it combines two scams which are, themselves, effective. Romance scams typically involve large amounts of trust being developed. This trust is then the ideal tool to get past the skepticism that is often associated with investment scams.
The fake exchanges also contribute to the victim believing what they are being told. Aside from the URL, they appear identical to legitimate exchanges. The victim is then basing their decision on both a person that they trust and a website that appears to be confirming that person’s story.
Who Do Pig Butchering Scams Target?
Anyone can be targeted by a pig butchering scam. The scammers are typically talking to large amounts of people simultaneously and there appears to be very little effort to specifically target the rich or the vulnerable.
The scam also occurs on a wide range of different websites. While dating websites are obviously ideal for this type of activity, many victims meet the perpetrator on social media and chat apps.
Men tend to be targeted more often than women, but there are also a lot of female victims.
How Much Do Victims Lose to Pig Butchering Scams?
Pig butchering is a highly effective scam and many victims lose their entire savings. While some scams involve a request for a specific amount, pig butchering has no set limit.
Instead, the victim is constantly encouraged to invest more, and each time, they are greeted with fake profits. Because of this, once a victim believes in the scam, the amount lost is often based solely on how much they have to invest.
How to Avoid Pig Butchering Scams
This scam can be avoided by understanding that you never really know who you are talking to online. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done.
The perpetrators of pig butchering have carried out the scam hundreds of times before and know exactly what to say to get the victim to let their guard down.
It’s also important to understand that cryptocurrency transactions are both anonymous and irreversible. This makes them incredibly popular with cybercriminals and any discussion of a cryptocurrency investment should therefore be seen as a red flag.
Prior to depositing cryptocurrency anywhere, users should also Google the name of the exchange. While the interface of these websites is highly realistic, the perpetrators have no choice but to use URLs which are brand new and do not have any online reviews.
Pig Butchering Is a Problem That Should Be Publicized
Pig butchering is a profitable online scam that utilizes sophisticated social engineering techniques to steal large amounts of money from people. Because the perpetrators remain anonymous, and the payments are in untraceable cryptocurrency, it’s also a very difficult scam to stop.
Like many online scams, the primary protection against it is to be aware that it happens. If somebody understands the concept of fake cryptocurrency exchanges, they are no longer a potential victim.
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