Scammers are back at it again with a new scheme – called “pig butchering scams” – that targets people looking for love online. This highly sophisticated scam lures people into long-term relationships before selling them on fake online investment opportunities. 

The scam is quickly spreading. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center recently saw more than 4,300 submissions for romance fraud that, include pig butchering scams, totaling more than $429 million in losses. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Justice recently seized seven domain names related to pig butchering schemes. 

Read on to learn more about pig butchering scams and tips on helping protect yourself effectively. 

What Is a Pig Butchering Scam?

As mentioned, pig butchering scams are long-term schemes that involve romance, cryptocurrency, and online investment scams. 

Pig butchering scams were first reported in China. The scam is known by the Chinese phrase “shāzhūpán” because the scammer “fattens” the victim first with empty promises, catchy phrases, and fake online investments that seem to show significant gains, making the victim not only fall in love but invest their own money. Eventually, they are “butchered” by losing their money in a fake crypto or investment trap. 

How Does a Pig Butchering Scam Work?

Pig butchering scams often start on a dating site, with the scammer sending a message to the target. Criminals create this bond by having regular conversations with their target and being charming to the point where they know they have complete trust. 

As time goes by, the scammer will start to have meaningless conversations about cryptocurrency and investments. They may tell the victim more about their interest in cryptocurrency and how they are profiting. 

Over time, the scammer manipulates the victim, often asking the victim to help the scammer manage their cryptocurrency or online trades and directing them to fake apps. These fraudulent apps appear to show the scammer has large gains in trading. These fake exchanges can look like legit sites.

The scammer then asks the victim to transfer money to the scammer’s account or open their own account and invest.

The scam is found out when the scammer eventually disappears, along with all the money the victim “invested,” or the victim tries to withdraw their money only to find out their original investment has been taken.

Victims can unfortunately further fall victim to a secondary scam when they try to withdraw their money and are then contacted by an “administrator” who tells them their gains have to be investigated before they are released. The “administrator” states the victim can pay a fee to expedite the process. Once again, the victim loses any money they send. 

Who Do Pig Butchering Scams Target?

Research shows that anyone can be a target in pig butchering scams. But these scammers generally focus on people looking to find love online. One report from the Better Business Bureau found that women are more susceptible to romance scams than men. However, if you are a man, don’t necessarily consider yourself safe. 

How To Avoid Pig Butchering Scams

Pig butchering scams are highly complex. These cybercriminals are highly efficient at creating a persona that connects with you. 

This makes it hard to differentiate between someone real and someone trying to scam you. 

Remember that you never know who you are talking to when you are not meeting them face-to-face. While forming a connection via messaging is possible, you need to consider that you do not know the person you are talking to. 

Some victims have even reported video chatting with their online connection. So, even if you have seen their face, still be on the lookout for a possible scam. 

It’s also important to realize it’s a red flag at any mention of cryptocurrency. So when someone you meet on a dating site starts talking about cryptocurrencies or perhaps investments, you should ensure you are wary. 

Warning Signs of Pig Butchering Scams

Recognizing the warning signs of a pig butchering scam is important, as this can help you avoid suffering significant financial losses when you fall for one of these scams. Several warning signs may come up, but when you feel a connection to someone on a dating site, it’s sometimes hard to identify them. 

Here are some of the most common warning signs that you should keep an eye out for:

● When you meet someone on a dating site, they quickly drop lines like “I love you” or “I have feelings for you.” These scammers often try to “push” for a connection so they can move in for the “slaughter” without wasting too much time.

● The person you meet may start to talk about cryptocurrency investments after you have a couple of conversations with them. Some wait until you trust them, while others may start mentioning crypto early on. 

● The person may advise you that they do crypto trading for a living, then try to get you to invest with them later. 

How To Help Protect Yourself From “Pig Butchering”

Knowing how to protect yourself can help minimize your chances of becoming a victim of a pig butchering scam. Here are a few things you can do to stay safe. 

First, it’s crucial that you do not share sensitive personal information with people you have only met on the internet. No matter how charming the person might seem, do not share your Social Security number, bank information, and login credentials with them. 

Also, do not send money or agree to any investment opportunities to someone you’ve met on a dating site. That’s a huge red flag. 

If you send money to the scammer, there’s no guarantee you will get it back. 

What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed

If you’re a victim of a pig butchering scam, here are a few things you can do to help yourself. 

  • Report and block the scammer’s account. 
  • File a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ICS). 
  • File a report with local law enforcement. 
  • Update login information to protect your accounts better. 
  • Consider signing up for identity theft protection to monitor and protect your personal information and credit. 

Bottom Line

We’ve seen a significant rise in online scams within just a few years. Pig butchering scams have caused billions in losses and continue stealing money from victims. 

Understanding how pig butchering scams work and how you can recognize them is a great way to keep yourself protected. You should also make sure you are protecting your identity and credit through an identity theft protection service like IdentityIQ