Pig Butchering Fraud

The pig butchering scam is a type of fraud in which criminals lure victims into digital relationships to build trust before convincing them to invest in cryptocurrency platforms. Unbeknownst to victims, the fraudsters control the platforms and will eventually take all the money and vanish.

Pig butchering scams are long-term con jobs that combine elements of romance scams, investment schemes, and cryptocurrency fraud. The objectionable term involves fraudsters building a relationship with their victims, metaphorically fattening the pig before deceiving them into making investments in fake business ventures before the “butchering” and bleeding of all the victim’s money. 

Common Steps Involved in a Pig Butchering Scam:

  • The scammer — or “host” — initiates contact with a target online via social media, a dating app, a unprompted telephone call or by sending a “wrong number” text or WhatsApp message.
  • Once hosts find a suitable target — the proverbial “pig” — they stay in constant contact to build a relationship.
  • After earning the victim’s trust, the host encourages the victim to start cryptocurrency trading. The host will claim to have insider tips or family connections in the investment industry, and explain that massive returns are common.
  • The host then encourages the victim to download an app — and offers to trade together, showing how easy it is to yield returns. However, it’s a fraudulent platform controlled by a gang of scammers. 
  • Once victims join the platform, the host simulates trades to make it look like they’re earning profits. The host may even encourage victims to withdraw some of their “gains” to build their confidence.
  • Convinced that everything is bonafide, victims invest larger and larger sums of money. Over time, the host continues to manipulate victims (and the platform) to keep them investing. This step is known as “fattening the pig” before a proverbial slaughter.
  • Later, when victims try to withdraw their money, the platform will claim there’s an issue with the account — or will inform them that they need to pay massive fees and taxes to get their cash. 
  • Eventually, the victim realizes the truth — and the fraudster (and platform) disappear, along with the funds.

Red Flags to Look Out For:

  • You receive “wrong number” texts or WhatsApp messages from people you have never met
  • Someone you meet online suddenly starts talking about crypto
  • A match on a dating site quickly starts “love bombing”
  • Scammers use emotional manipulation to build your trust
  • A friend wants you to invest in a crypto exchange with “guaranteed” returns
  • You’re told to download a “special” crypto trading or investment app
  • Investment sites offer tiers with minimum investment amounts
  • Your new contact offers to ‘trade’ with you to show you how it works
  • You get a quick, small return on your initial investment
  • You’re told you need to pay a “tax” or “fees” in order to withdraw your profits from a platform

Safety Tips and How to Avoid:

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited text messages. Regardless of what the person is saying, you shouldn’t engage in conversation. Instead, delete the messages and block the number.
  • Beware of any new person in your life who encourages you to invest in something. Never share any financial information, like your credit card numbers or bank account details.
  • Be aware that frauds are carefully planned and patiently executed. Fraudsters are prepared to communicate with you for weeks if not months before introducing the subject of investments.
  • Even friends or family members (not just online strangers) who encourage you to invest money in “get rich” opportunities may be unwitting victims of a pig butchering scam.
  • Remember that even if it seems real, any website or app can be manipulated. Never join an investment platform suggested by someone whom you’ve only met online.
  • If a platform promises high returns that sound too good to be true, stay away from it and end all contact with the associated people.
  • If you suspect you might be caught up in the early phases of a pig butchering scam and have lost money already, stop and contact the police. Paying more money to the scammer on whatever pretence or to a third party ‘investigator’ company will not help you.
  • Stop putting money in as soon as you encounter any fee or tax. It’s a scam, and the only thing you can do is cut your losses, contact the police and inform your financial service provider.

If you Think you are Being Defrauded:

  • Report to the police and your financial service provider (used during the scam) as soon as possible – time really is of the essence.
  • Collect together all information, including any correspondence, telephone numbers, email addresses, virtual currency transaction information.
  • Go easy on yourself, these people are clever and sophisticated. If you are a victim, report it and help others from being victimized.