“Pig Butchering” is an updated take on Investment Scams, in which victims are lured into phony cryptocurrency schemes. The name comes from the practice of “fattening up” victims for financial “slaughter” later.
It’s a gross scam with a gross name.
The perpetrators of this scam convince their victims to buy cryptocurrency and “invest” it through a website. The site will appear to show the victim’s balance growing at a high rate. The scammer convinces their mark to keep adding money to their account, as this alleged balance reaches into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. When the victim finally decides to cash out, there will be a significant “fee” involved in doing so, often in the tens of thousands. Once this final deposit is made, the website and the scammer both disappear. There was never any investment, never any account, just an untraceable crypto wallet the victim was transferring funds into.
How They Get You
Pig Butchering scams often start one of two ways, and usually play the long game with their victims. It may start with a “wrong number” text message. When you respond to this message, the stranger will thank you profusely for being so nice, then attempt to strike up a conversation. This exchange, lighthearted and flirty, including photos of the (attractive, of course) stranger, may continue for weeks before the topic of investing and cryptocurrency is even brought up. Eventually, though, this person you’ve come to like and trust brings up the subject of a new opportunity they’ve invested in. Their returns, of course, have been incredible, and they’d be happy to let you in on the secret.
The other method of hooking victims involves posting fake profiles on dating websites. Again, the scammer might exchange messages for a very long time before broaching the subject of investments and cryptocurrency.
“Why would someone just keep putting in more money once they find out that withdrawing it is going to require putting in more?” you may ask. Pig Butchering victims who rack up serious losses generally are falling for the sunk-cost fallacy; they’ve already deposited $20,000, so what’s another $10,000, especially if it might mean walking away with a quarter million?
Keep in mind that some versions of this scam may allow the victim to withdraw some of their funds early in the scheme as a way to “prove” that it’s a legitimate investment. Later, when the victim believes their investment has grown to half a million dollars, another $30,000 might not seem unreasonable. After all, they were able to successfully withdraw $100 that one time, right?
How to Avoid It
To avoid this scam, first watch out for wrong number text messages. These usually include someone else’s name (the fake intended recipient) and references to some mundane-but-specific subject. Other times they may claim to have lost all their contacts, and are trying to remember everyone’s number. You can be cordial, but don’t take the bait if the stranger seems to want to continue talking. They’ll get around to their investment scam eventually. Also, those photos aren’t really him or her.
On dating websites, the same rules apply to avoiding other types of Romance Scams. As soon as they bring up investing, guaranteed returns, or cryptocurrency, block them and cut off all contact. You do not want what they are offering.