Pig butchering scams are a type of investment fraud that involves tricking targets into investing in cryptocurrency trading. After developing a relationship with their target, the scammer will offer to share tips on cryptocurrency trading and set the target up with a trading account. Once the target has invested all their money, the scammer disappears, and so does the money.
Pig butchering scams are so named because the scammers “fatten up” the target by persuading them to invest all their money in a bogus opportunity, followed by figuratively “butchering” them—leaving them with nothing but losses.
How does a pig butchering scam work?
In a pig butchering scam, the scammer will often initiate contact with the target via a social network—usually with an “oops, wrong number” scenario. They’ll then proceed to build a relationship, often romantic, before presenting an investment opportunity in a cryptocurrency trading platform.
Once the target has expressed interest, the scammer will pressure them to invest quickly. They may say that the investment is a limited-time offer or that the price is about to go up. The scammer may also offer to help the target with the paperwork or money transfers. There may be an app for the target to download that looks like a simple cryptocurrency trading platform. In reality, the scammers control the app.
Once the target has invested and—according to the app—is making excellent returns, the scammer will pressure them to invest even more money. They may even get them to borrow money, a step known as “fattening the pig.” Once the target tries to withdraw their money, or it becomes apparent that they have no more money to invest, the scammer will disappear.
Why do pig butchering scams work?
Pig butchering scams work because they prey on the victim’s greed and fear of missing out. The scammers know that people are often eager to invest in new and exciting businesses, especially if they believe they can make a lot of money.
The scammers use these emotions to their advantage. They create a sense of urgency by telling the target that the investment is a limited-time offer or that the price is about to go up. They also use high-pressure sales tactics to convince the target to invest quickly.
If the scammer manages to create a romance or other emotional relationship with the target, they’re using social engineering, manipulating the target to trust them enough to fall for the fake investment opportunity.
How to tell if you’re being scammed
There are a few things you can look out for if you’re worried you might be the victim of a pig butchering scam.
- The investment opportunity is too good to be true. If someone is offering you an investment that promises high returns with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam.
- They’re pressuring you to invest quickly. Legitimate investment professionals will never pressure you to invest in something you’re uncomfortable with.
- They’re asking for personal information. Legitimate investment professionals will never ask for your personal information, such as your social security number or bank account number.
- They’re asking for money upfront. Legitimate investment professionals will never ask for money upfront. They’ll only ask for money after you’ve had a chance to review the investment and ask questions.
- You met the person on social media or seemingly by chance. Dating apps and even popular chat apps like WhatsApp are rife with scammers. It’s even more suspicious if you’ve been talking to someone online for a while but have never met in person.
If any of the above sets off alarm bells for you, here’s what you can do next.
- Stop communicating with the scammer. The more you communicate with the scammer, the more likely they are to convince you to invest.
- Collect evidence. Take screenshots of messages, apps, transactions, and other evidence of your interactions.
- Report the scam to the authorities. You can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you are in the U.S. or your local police department.
- Contact your bank. If you’ve already wired money to the scammer, you may be able to get your money back by contacting your bank.
FAQ: Pig butchering scams
Why is it called a pig butchering scam?
The scam is thought to have originated in China, and the name is a rough translation of the Chinese phrase, Shā Zhū Pán. But it means the same thing in either language—essentially, a scammer “fattens up” a target (pig) by getting them to invest more and more before taking them for everything they’ve got (butchering).
Can you get your money back if you get scammed?
Victims of financial scams are unlikely to get their money back; however, it’s always worth reporting a scam to your bank, the authorities, and the Federal Trade Commission (if you’re in the U.S.). Many banks may have policies to reimburse victims of APP (authorized push payment) fraud, but there is no guarantee of reimbursement.
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