The Pig Butchering Scam
Since late 2020, another pandemic has entered the stage, undetected and unreported by the media. This new pandemic is not caused by a virus, but by something more elusive and sinister, targeting young, urban professionals across the globe. The insidious effects and long-lasting trauma inflicted on its victims leave its survivors scarred for life. It far too commonly destroys the lives of people that had bright futures and at the prime of their careers -- draining bank accounts, breaking up families, straining marriages, derailing life goals, and triggering suicides. This new pandemic is an online-based romance-investment hybrid scam termed “the pig butchering scam”, run by criminal syndicates in Southeast Asia. This is no ordinary romance or investment scam. We have reached 700+ victims around the world with an average loss of almost $100,000 USD per person, totaling over $70 million USD, but we are most likely, without exaggeration, merely a drop in the ocean.
New Victims Every Day
Harrowing stories like that of SL are a typical case, and not even the worst, among the hundreds of victims of this paired romance-investment scam, known in China as the Pig-Butchering Scam (shā zhū pán, 杀猪盘). Identifying and then contacting prospective victims on dating apps (including Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, and Hinge) and social media platforms (including, but not limited to Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Quora), unsuspecting users – college students, recent graduates in a new city, professionals looking to settle down, unhappily married women and divorcees -- are patiently groomed to become interested in cryptocurrency trading, and then tricked under various pretexts into depositing escalating amounts of money into sham investment platforms, in combination with extreme pressure tactics and emotional manipulation. Even worse, intimate photos are used for extortion, driving victims, already with shattered self-esteems, social lives, life goals and dreams, to suicide. Hundreds of victims of all sexual orientations lose an unbelievable tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of their savings, and are even driven into heavy debt.
But I'm too smart for that, that will never happen to me
It may be hard to believe online scammers can cause this degree of damage to young, educated individuals, but the immense scale, professional training, and organized operation behind each scam is astonishingly sophisticated. As the coronavirus pandemic restricted mobility everywhere, the online space provided the perfect playground. The most successful perpetrators are irresistible online conversationalists and incredibly well-versed about life and finances in the cities and countries they target. The results speak for themselves; our varied backgrounds, as well as the magnitude of our losses, testify to it. Our stories will show how intense, innovative, and adaptable the perpetrators’ social engineering techniques are. We want your readers to understand: victims lose so much in the end not because they were gullible, but because they were manipulated.
Justice for victims may not come anytime soon
It is impossible for local police to handle the growing daily case load, particularly because cryptocurrency is too unfamiliar to local police, and the fraud companies are outside national jurisdictions. Many financial institutions and social media companies here have remained reticent, deny any liability, and refuse to warn users of this increasingly common scam. Cryptocurrency exchanges, some under ambiguous regulatory authority, invariably tell scam victims to contact police first before they will take any action on fraudulent accounts, despite any evidence provided. However, the police almost always pass on a cryptocurrency case. Meanwhile, well-meaning victims looking for love are dismissed as being naïve or “too greedy". The scammers would not have been so successful without the technology and services of the digital ecosystem, yet victims and their immediate families are left to bear the entire costs of the scam and resulting debts to banks, lending agencies and loan sharks. Their startling success in China in the last few years had forced the Chinese government to widely wage an anti-fraud campaign, tighten its banking and cryptocurrency regulations, and conduct transnational police operations in order to contain the bleeding of their middle class. In contrast, knowledge of this scam is virtually non-existent outside of greater China. The lack of media coverage, investigations, and preventative measures only empowers scammers to continue targeting and ruining the lives of more people.
Our stories are severely underreported in the media, even though these scams are probably wreaking economic havoc on a similar scale to the recent wave of ransomware cybercrime. We implore you to help prevent future victims by partnering with us to share our stories and spread awareness. The victim count is incessantly rising as “pig-butchering” scammers are creeping into the “foreign market” (e.g., Singapore, Malaysia, United States, Europe, Australia, etc.) without news coverage or alerts commensurate with the devastation they cause. New victims who have just lost more than $100,000 flood our website and support groups daily.
We desperately need your help to prevent more victims from experiencing the loss and trauma that we have been through.