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The pump and dump of the heart

It wasn’t until we had an actual video chat did my suspicions go away – she was real!

GD, a Chinese-American man in his 40's, met an attractive Hong Kong woman in a chance encounter by direct message on Reddit who wooed him by text and video chat, promises of a future together, and also her impressive stock portfolio. Unlike most pig-butchering schemes we hear of, this particular scam used neither cryptocurrency nor fraudulent brokers on MT4/MT5, but instead the "pump and dump" of stocks.

The use of the confidence trick (defrauding someone after first gaining their trust) and financial fraud (someone harming your financial health through deceptive, misleading, or other illegal practices) are two of the many known cons. I want to shed light on a variant of a Pig-Butchering scam that I was a victim of, a blend of Romance + Pump and Dump.

The pump and dump scheme (SpeedTrader)

Normally, scams are direct: the ones that require you to transfer your money into someone else's account or give up sensitive information. But this was an indirect scam. I was not anticipating a pump and dump.

I'm a Chinese American man in his forties who’s interested and attracted to Asian women. In hindsight, being single and unlucky in dating, a romance scam following the pig-butchering playbook would be a trick to which I was particularly susceptible. The only difference in this version of pig-butchering was there was no crypto or MT4/5 involved. Through a seemingly random social media connection, I met a girl on Reddit (via DM) who was of Hong Kong origin. After a week of friendly messaging, she invited me to chat on WhatsApp. I’ve had my encounters with catfish before, so I still had my suspicions, but at the same time, I accepted our connection with an open mind. Intrigued, I agreed.

After further exchanges, we eventually shared photos. She was a beautiful woman in her thirties. She spoke to me with care and attention. We messaged each other every single day. I’m an introvert - I was attracted, but cynically wondered if she was real at the same time. It wasn’t until we had an actual video chat did my suspicions go away – she was real! In just two weeks we went from being friendly to flirty. We both expressed romantic interest in each other and even teased the idea of marriage. We’d talk about lifestyle, family, childhood, dreams, and other personal stories. On week two, she casually showed me her wealthy investment portfolio. She attributed her success to her Uncle, who was an investment bank manager. She said explained she would receive information from him in advance about which stocks to invest in, and as a result would profit each time.

This promise of guaranteed wealth as well as my trust in her is what eventually enticed me to invest. Unbeknownst to me, I was being fattened up. I was persuaded that it would be a guaranteed gain. I got greedy and put in a quarter of my assets. Once I bought in, she would ask to see screenshots but once I showed them to her, they would crash on the same trading day. I fell for this trick twice. First time it was through a Hong Kong stock, and the second time an American stock. She wanted me to continue but I was done hearing about investing, and I already had enough in my stock portfolio. Most pig butchering scams fool people into fake crypto trading platforms but I was actually buying through a legitimate brokerage. Through this ordeal, I had some suspicions and ignored numerous red flags such as her shallow digital presence. She had other profiles and also used different aliases. I didn't want to believe the whole thing was a con or that this woman didn't love me, and I was afraid to doubt a love interest. Even after being scammed, I still had feelings for her. Only when she stopped her affections towards me did I finally snap out of it.

The sad thing is, in the context of dating, I felt more loved by this con artist than from dating women in real life. It’s also painful to deal with expensive, impatient, arrogant lawyers, grumpy, useless private investigators, prepping to make empty reports, and pessimistic expectations, than a fake relationship. Lawyers will tell you that they can offer limited help in exchange for copious amounts of money, so don’t get your hopes up. Other professionals could not deal with my eager involvement and end up quitting on me. The line between con artist and regular person can get blurry. People are shallow, greedy. Looks and wealth are important, no doubt. The real scam of dating is we accept and reject thousands of people over trivial feelings/desires. The only difference is the level of deception involved. Sometimes I cynically/jokingly wonder if I could learn from these scammers on their ways to charm women, only that I’m not particularly handsome or wealthy, and that I am still after love.

There were times when I felt hopeless, like I was drowning and nobody could help me. Sometimes it’s good to tell yourself it’s not the end of the world. Go back to your regular life. I’m fortunate I did not lose all of my money. I can still live my life normally. In life, you hear about people marrying someone just for their money and like murdering them after years of marriage and they never actually loved them. Such crazy things happen in life. The matter still troubles me, and consumes much of my thought. But it’s good to connect with other victims, to know that you’re not alone, and work out a game plan. Gather evidence, organize data. When you’re ready, report to police, financial regulators. Investigate. Talk about it with victims and those you trust. Don’t be ashamed. It’s taxing and a lot of work. It’s quite an experience. Sometimes in life, tragedy strikes and there’s nothing you can do. It can’t be helped. Even though the chances of money recovery are low to none, at least in these cases, there may be a few other things you can do. Besides all these practical steps and social advocacy, it’s ok to cry, but don’t forget to learn, to love, to live, and laugh again.

P.S. I’m still single!

- GD

Editor's note:

For an additional report on "pump and dump" schemes being used in conjunction with pig-butchering tactics:

  • Today Online: A female executive in Singapore who was wooed over the phone by a sweet-talking Hong Kong man who convinced her to put all her savings into a hot stock. The share price crashed, her phone lover vanished, and she found herself HK$700,000 (S$120,543 or $90k USD) poorer. [link]


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