What is a pig butchering scam? Fake crypto investment offers

Anton P. | January 11, 2023

A pig butchering scam is a fake cryptocurrency investment offer. Scammers convince targets that investing is a prosperous decision after weeks or months of communication. So, a pig butchering scam aims to gain trust, play with victims’ feelings and coerce them to invest more. 

Such fraud can occur through SMS messages, email, forums, or online dating platforms. Let’s see how you can recognize a pig butchering scam.

What is a pig butchering scam?

A pig butchering scam preys on people by randomly contacting them, establishing rapport, and gaining trust. Then, once the victim feels comfortable with scammers, they propose phony investment opportunities. 

It could involve various financial trading. However, criminals prefer crypto scams to remain anonymous. Our research suggests that investment scams cost victims the highest losses. 

So, a pig butchering scam is a scheme convincing people to invest money in cryptocurrencies. However, perpetrators play the long game, taking the time to earn victims’ trust. 

Scammers won’t require upfront payments or preach limited-time deals. Instead, a pig butchering scam aims to fatten victims before they strike. 

The pig butchering scam first appeared in China and received its name from the Chinese phrase shāzhūpán. While recovering victims’ money is a complex process, it is possible

Another disturbing factor is that pig butchering scams have connections to human trafficking. As explained by ProPublica, it is a new approach, forcing victims of human trafficking to scam others. 

Preying on the vulnerable people

Scammers perform specific screening procedures to determine whether a person is a prosperous victim. 

Thus, they prefer people struggling financially, taking care of ill relatives, or feeling stuck at their jobs. A pig butchering scam creates a pretext of life-changing investments, likely paired with romantic elements. 

How pig butchering scam works 

Your Tinder match has offered you an incredible opportunity to invest in a promising cryptocurrency project. They even shared solid evidence through seemingly legitimate exchange platforms and dashboards. 

POOPAC is an example of a platform for online trading that authorities claim to be fraudulent. Pig butchering scams also frequently involve the MetaTrader platform for accessing online brokerages. 

Unfortunately, the charming individual has chosen you for a pig butchering scam. 

A pig butchering scam borrows many tricks seen across romance scams. The perpetrators try to get close to the victims. Daily conversations might seem normal, but the swindler casually mentions their successful investments. 

So, a pig butchering scam usually goes through four main stages. 

Stage 1: contacting victims

A pig butchering scam can choose from a variety of channels to contact victims: 

  • SMS messages. 
  • Instant messaging apps. 
  • Social media like Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Forums for crypto trading enthusiasts. 
  • Emails. 
  • Online dating platforms. 

Usually, scammers cast a wide net by contacting thousands of potential victims. They could generate target lists from email addresses or phone numbers leaked after data breaches.

Perpetrators can message people as if they know them. Then, once you reply that they might have gotten the wrong number, they will initiate a conversation.  

Stage 2: gaining victims’ trust

A pig butchering scam won’t immediately bombard you with phony investment opportunities. Instead, you can expect the perpetrators to act in the following ways: 

  • Scammers will be eager to build friendships or even romantic relationships. 
  • They will claim to be highly successful cryptocurrency traders. 
  • They will try to get to know the victim and ask about their personal life. 
  • They can aim to find out your income through casual conversations. 
  • They can engage in voice or video calls. 
  • They can send you photos of their daily activities.
  • However, they will slip in information on cryptocurrencies. 
  • Likely, they will tell success stories or send updates about their investment returns. 

Stage 3: the fake investment opportunity

The pig butchering scammers will boast about their earnings, like sending screenshots of fake dashboards. Then, they will offer you to join their investment. At first, they could suggest minor sums. 

Sophisticated scammers can create fake trading platforms designed to provide false stock information. 

You may also send payments directly to them, and they invest on your behalf. Con artists can motivate the victims to invest more by sending a small amount of money as returns. 

Stage 4: scammers disappear 

The pig butchering scam ends when perpetrators find they have stolen enough funds. In other cases, it might be because victims start suspecting something. Scammers might explain that hefty fees are necessary to withdraw returns. 

In any way, scammers will disappear after getting what they want. 

Warnings signs of a pig butchering scam 

These are the most common signs that you are a target of a pig butchering scam. 

  • Sudden communication from unknown numbers. Scammers can distribute scams via WhatsApp or other instant messaging apps. 
  • A potential date quickly starts love-bombing you with messages. They also try to learn about your life and financial situation.
  • A person introduces themself as a crypto enthusiast and a successful trader. They can send glorious pictures of luxury trips or expensive cars. 
  • The scammer boasts about their investments and states that they are risk-free. They claim to offer victims a golden opportunity to end their financial troubles.
  • A pig butchering scammer will use an unknown trading platform. It can seem legitimate or mimic well-known sites. 
  • Criminals can send their victims small sums as returns to make their investments seem more legitimate. 

The dangerous reality of pig butchering scams 

Pig butchering scams relate to highly devastating schemes when perpetrators turn human trafficking victims into scammers. 

Usually, victims would get lured with high-salary jobs that are actually employment scams. Governments have issued warnings to people in Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. It is crucial to raise awareness about phony job opportunities in relation to human trafficking. 

Also, people worldwide should be highly vigilant about the continuous increase of crypto scams. You can prevent a pig butchering scam if you maintain a respectable distance from people you meet online. 

It is best not to reveal your personal life and information to strangers. Furthermore, be highly suspicious of people that offer life-changing investment opportunities.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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