Bad Romance: over 25% of ‘Pig Butchering’ scams happen on dating sites

Edward G. | February 06, 2023

Data presented by Atlas VPN shows that 25.7% of pig butchering scams had their first point of contact on dating websites.

Pig butchering is a relatively recent social engineering scam in which fraudsters contact people via social media sites or emails and text messages and cultivate trust through long-term dialogue. They create the illusion of a friendship or romantic relationship, also called the “feeding” phase.

At some point, the fraudsters suggest that the victim invests in cryptocurrencies on the suggested platform.

Little does the victim know even though the website looks trustworthy, the platform itself isn’t connected to a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange or market.

Victims who visit these bogus investment dashboards see large returns and believe their investment is bringing huge returns quickly. Then, the fraudster advises investing even more while the getting is good, hence luring out even a larger sum of money from the victim. In other words, “harvesting” the already “fed” victim. 

Finally, when the victim attempts to cash out, they are hit with multiple procedures and fees. As suspicion builds, shortly, the website is shut down, and the previous friend or romantic interest is nowhere to be found.

Bad Romance: over 25% of ‘Pig Butchering’ scams happen on dating sites

The data on pig butchering scams is originally from the Pig Butchering Scam Report by RealCall, based on a survey of 996 RealCall users, interviews with scam victims, former scam sweatshop workers, advocates, rescue workers, etc., and some research in numerous channels. The survey findings were released in January 2023. 

Surprisingly, nearly 48% of the respondents report that they have gone through a pig butchering scam and experienced financial losses. 

Another 49% of those surveyed said that they had encountered a pig butchering scam in the past but were able to identify it and avoid it. 

Worth noting that the surveyed respondents already use the service offered by RealCall, which is used to detect and block unknown spam calls and robocalls, suggesting that the population surveyed has already had a negative experience pertaining to being contacted by an anonymous actor with negative intentions, so these percentages should not be applied to the more general population.

On the other hand, knowing the most common points of contact is still useful in order to avoid getting taken advantage of. 

As already mentioned, 25.7% of respondents say they were first messaged through dating websites, while 40.4% of victims note their initial contact with fraudsters was through anonymous calls and messages.

Another 11.2% of communication was started on social media, and 9.3% through job-hunting channels. These days, only 7.6% of contact is made through emails. 

Man loses $1 million

Not long ago, Forbes released an extensive article revealing how a pig butchering scam works in real life. Here, a 52-year-old guy from San Francisco lost $1 million after being approached by scammers posing as an old friend.

The deception was carried out during a months-long, WhatsApp chat that totaled more than 271,000 words. 

The fraudster took advantage of the victim's financial difficulties. With an ill father, an overworked wife, and a daughter about to begin college, the victim found the seemingly quick and simple cash gains appealing. 

After seeing his returns skyrocket, the 52-year-old man kept investing more and more, with the threat actor encouraging and congratulating him at every turn. 

When it was too late, the man realized he was scammed. He invested nearly all of his life savings and became suicidal. 

In the end, the scammer responded cold-heartedly: “Hurting yourself is a sign of incompetence.”

The victim filed a police report with his local police department, but there is little to no hope that they would recover his funds due to a lack of resources and technologies with cryptocurrencies. 

Final remarks 

Pig butchering scams are possibly the most damaging threats to individuals.

To avoid them, it is imperative to cut off communication with scammers as soon as possible.

Do not trust anyone who texts you out of the blue, posing as an old friend or colleague. Be wary of fake profiles on social media and dating websites.

Most importantly, it should be a huge red flag when someone you do not know in real life brings up a to-good-to-be-true investment opportunity, especially one connected to cryptocurrencies.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.



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