City A.M. is increasingly receiving reports about a new crypto scam called ‘Pig Butchering’, which combines the intimacy of romance scams with the wild west of crypto cons.
In this scam, the victims are referred to as pigs being prepared for slaughter: they’re raised for their meaty profit under the promise of ‘happily ever after’ and big crypto wins.
In reality, the victims are everyday people who are left financially and emotionally devastated.
The cybercriminals operating this long con spend months gaining online daters’ trust, using romance and the lure of fast crypto returns to swindle victims out of their savings and cause sometimes irreparable financial harm, on top of lasting emotional and psychological trauma.
The scammers basically meet victims on popular dating apps, before moving the conversation on to WhatsApp, and bombarding the victim with flirtatious messages until turning the conversation to cryptocurrency.
The scammer, posing as a successful crypto trader, offers to show the victim how to invest his or her money for fast, low-risk gains.
From here, the scammer helps the victim buy cryptocurrency on a legitimate site, like Coinbase or Crypto.com, and provides instructions for transferring it to a fake cryptocurrency exchange.
The victim’s money appears on the exchange’s website, and he or she starts “investing” it in various crypto assets, under the scammer’s guidance, before the scammer ultimately absconds with the money.
‘Worst of two scams’
Discussing the scam with City A.M. this afternoon, Jane Lee, a trust and safety architect at Sift, she said she has developed a special interest in how fraudsters are taking the most successful elements of fraud schemes to devise new, mutated tactics with destructive potential.
She called pig bitchering “the worst of two scams, it combines the intimacy of romance scams with the wild west of crypto cons.”
“They strike up a conversation and begin to build trust, before moving the conversation to WhatsApp, a private, encrypted messaging app to maintain their anonymity and hedge their risk of getting caught by any single platform. The victims are then won over with romantic messages and the promise of expensive gifts,” Lee explained.
Inevitably, the conversation turns to money.
“The scammer will sell the allure of crypto gains, bragging about how much they’ve made investing, and promising to coach their target so they can earn a little extra cash, too.”Jane Lee
Victims are instructed to create an account on a legitimate crypto platform. Then, they’re sent a link to a fake crypto trading platform that is entirely controlled by the scammer, who claims it’s better for diversified trading than other platforms.
“This phony third-party trading site is simple in design but mimics a real crypto trading platform, showing accurate real-time values of cryptocurrencies,” Lee said.
“Victims instantly start seeing supposed profits, as the scammers manipulate the returns displayed on the trading platform, further earning trust.”
“Once the fraudster has drained their victim of however much transferred Tether, a cryptocurrency tied to the U.S. dollar, they’re after, or when the victim realizes they cannot withdraw any additional funds, the scammer will simply disappear,” Lee added.
After uncovering the inner workings of Pig Butchering, Lee said her firm is working closely with dating apps to shut down these profiles and identify methods to detect malicious accounts.