Pig Butchering Scam: What it is and how to protect yourself

A new type of online scam has started to appear. It is called Pig Butchering Scam and in Greek we would call it Pig Butchery Scam.

pig butchering scam

The internet is full of scams. From time to time incredible stories have been heard, from simple pyramid schemes and fake e-shops, to a woman who sent money so that her beloved astronaut would come back from space and marry her.

And it all starts with a bit of "social engineering" aimed at tricking the victim, putting him at a disadvantage socially so that he finally trusts a real stranger he met online.

A new variant of social engineering is the Pig Butchering Scam, which is on the rise these days. It basically tries to trap unsuspecting victims into taking all their money with the promise that they will make a lot of money easily. That is what they do in the pyramids.

The Pig Butchering Scam originated in China and its name has to do with the Chinese version of the phrase “sha zhu pan” (殺豬盤). This phrase implies that the attackers first "fat the victims" (feed them, bait them) and then take everything they have. Does it remind you of anything? Perhaps the papatzis in Omonia and their supposed customers – barkers?

Pig Butchering scams, however, usually involve cryptocurrency schemes, although they can also involve other types of financial transactions.

The bait
At first the scammers may send you a simple message via sms or via social media like "Hello" or "Dimitris, we had a great time yesterday". If you reply to them by naturally telling the recipient that they are wrong, it means that you have a need to talk to someone and so the scammer takes the opportunity to start a conversation with you, eventually making you see them as a new online friend. .

He will make sure to spend several hours and days with you so that you feel familiar and after building a relationship, the hacker will confide that he has made a lot of money from investing in cryptocurrencies and suggest that you should consider getting into the cryptocurrency game as well.

The fattening
The scammer then gives you the link of a website that invests his own money, which is actually a malicious application or web platform that looks trustworthy but actually impersonates the platforms of legitimate financial institutions.

Once you enter the website you will see real-time market data regarding cryptocurrencies and a bunch of analysis that will show you the possibilities of investing in cryptocurrencies.

And once the victim is convinced, creates an account there and makes his first small deposit into his "investment account", he will soon see his balance "grow".

These platforms are actually so well set up to look legitimate and sophisticated that they have many touches and details of verisimilitude. They allow you to make video calls with their services and allow you to withdraw some money from the platform to reassure you that everything is under your control. The latter is a tactic used by fraudsters in traditional schemes as well Ponzi.

The butcher shop
We imagine you have figured out where this whole story is going to lead. Once the victim has deposited all the money they have, the scammers close the account and disappear.

After all, that's where the name of the scam came from. Thieves aim for the whole "pig". They look for people who are socially vulnerable, such as the elderly, with long-term health problems, people who feel isolated, etc. They want to get every last euro and are very persistent.

Although pulling off the Pig Butchering scam requires a lot of communication and long-term relationship building with victims, researchers report that criminal syndicates in China developed scripts and books that allowed them to pull off this scam on a large scale, with a bunch of inexperienced scammers or even with forced laborers who have fallen victims of human trafficking.

How to protect yourself
The idea is similar to that of ransomware attacks and digital extortion, where law enforcement encourages victims not to pay the hackers' ransom demands, so they become discouraged and eventually stop trying.

Although the Chinese government suppressed all these frauds cryptocurrency, starting in 2021, criminals were able to move their “businesses” to Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Governments around the world warn more and more for the threat.

In 2021, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 4.300 submissions regarding Pig Butchering scams totaling more than $429 million in losses. And at the end of November, the US Department of Justice announced that it had seized seven domains used in Pig Butchering scams in 2022.

"In this scheme, fraudsters, posing as highly successful cryptocurrency traders, lure victims into purported cryptocurrency investments by providing fictitious returns to encourage additional investments," the FBI said in warning of October 2022.

The main way to avoid such pitfalls is information and public education. If people know the tell-tale signs and understand the concepts behind scams, they are less likely to fall for them.

And for the information to reach a wider audience, those who learned from today's article (or any other article) would do well to pass the information on to others in their family and social circles.

As with romance scams and other highly personal and emotional attacks, researchers say pig butcher scams have a huge psychological impact on victims, in addition to the financial cost.

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Written by Dimitris

Dimitris hates on Mondays .....

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