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What Is The Pig Butchering Scam And Why It Should Concern Me?

Updated: Apr 5

Picture of a laptop with Scam Alert on it.
Pig Butchering Scam Alert

I’m sure you’ve heard about phishing. That’s when the scammers use emails pretending to be from legitimate companies to trick you into giving up your personal information like your Social Security number, your passwords, your credit card info, and more. Phishing scams are common today and have been hurting people for years. But there’s another lesser-known scam out there called Pig Butchering. This crude name comes from the practice of fattening up a pig prior to the slaughter but a very good, description of the process. It’s another scam to get your hard-earned money. But knowledge is power, so make sure you understand this powerful scam before you fall victim.

Unfortunately, the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are not always your average home-based criminal. Instead, the perpetrators sometimes are victims themselves. Some of these perpetrators are people looking for a technology related job that have been lured in with the promise of a high-paying income. Then, after going through an extensive interview process, they go the the "new place of work" and are abducted and forced to perform these scams or risk torture or even death. Here’s how pig butchering works:

The criminal creates a face and online persona on a site like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Text Messaging, and many other social media services. Typically, it will have a photo of a model-like individual (which more than likely has been stolen) and their profile will convey a successful, wealthy, and often glamorous lifestyle. The goal is to portray a lifestyle you would love to have and make them look approachable.

They then initiate contact with their potential victim. They will do this by sending a message to the person via one of these sites. Sometimes they will refer to something on your Social Media profile or pretend they contacted you in error. Perp: "Hey Dave! How have you been? So sad to hear about your mom.” Target: "I am not Dave; I think you have the wrong person." They dialogue is now opened up and is just the beginning of a long process. Multiple times lately I have had "women" on LinkedIn and Facebook reach out to me through an instant message with a comment like, "Hey I see you are very knowledgeable in your industry, and I would love to learn more about your success." They open with flattery and try to play the targets ego or they will prey on a lonely person who is just looking for conversation. Now, let's face it folks, I am a realist and although I am "beautifully and wonderfully made" in God's eyes, I know that a 30-year-old successful model is not going to be reaching out to this not so young, less than stunningly handsome, man, just to be friends and chat. The first few times this happened I ignored the attempt to connect as I knew there was something suspicious. But I was curious as to what was going on wanting to know their motivation and I so I started to research this to determine what their end goal was. I have learned a lot about Pig Butchering as a result.

Their next step is to gain the trust of the target. They will engage the potential victim in a conversation to gain their trust. The criminal will often initiate "harmless" chats about life, family, and work with the goal of getting information about the target's life that they can later use to manipulate them. They will tell you about their life and ask a lot of questions about yours, trying to create a bond or some form of relationship.

Then they go for the literal "buy-in".  If they are trying to get their target to invest in their "investment program" or crypto scam they will start sharing all their successes and how easy it is to make money if the target has the right training and guidance. They may even send them images of their bank account or brokerage account. They will then attempt to have the target open an account on their online brokerage site. They will work hard to give their target all types of examples to convince that person that it is safe and super profitable. Sadly, there are apps on the Apple App Store that are used by these criminals and unfortunately, the target often assumes that since it is an app on the Apple App Store it must have been vetted, but it is not. That is NOT a safe assumption!

Their next step is to convince the target to put real money into the fake account. The criminal will share all kinds of tips and tricks to make huge profits that they have learned over years of experience and then will be "so kind" as a “helpful friend” to assist them with the investment process. The criminal will then have them start with a small investment that will miraculously make some nice profits.

They will then work to "prove" that it is legitimate and get their target to withdraw their money and give them the feeling that it is completely safe and functioning exactly as the criminal promised. In the beginning, the target probably is a little cautious and the criminal's goal is to get them to completely buy in to get the big score.

They will then convince them to invest even more, now that they have shown them how “safe” and easy it was, and how much money can be made. They will push their target to invest more and say that the only way to make huge money and be as successful as them is to take the "steps they took" with this "risk-free" opportunity and have them take out loans, use retirement savings, mortgage their house, whatever they can get from the target.

Once the target has hit their maximum investment and has tapped everything, they have they will then have issues getting the money out of their account. The criminal may still play them and say something like "The government has seized the account because you have not paid taxes on this yet".  They will claim if you deposit a large sum of money, they will be able to get the money released. They may also say there was a catastrophic event that occurred and that all the money was lost. But they won't stop there, they will keep pushing to try to get their target to send them more and more money to get their initial investment back.

The moment the target becomes aware that they have been conned, the criminal typically will insult and humiliate them and disappear, shut down the site, relaunch a new one, and start the process all over again with another potential victim.

So, what can you do if this has happened to you? Immediately contact your bank, local law enforcement, or the FBI. Unfortunately, many people are too embarrassed to admit they were scammed and never report the crime. Please do not go there. The quicker you report it, the higher the probability that some or all your money can be tracked and retrieved.

The best step is prevention. If someone you do not know reaches out to you on the internet, ignore them. Do not click on any links, do not engage in conversation, do connect to them, block them and walk away.

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