Southeast Asian online investment fraud companies have gone global: they are no longer limited to targeting Chinese citizens living in China. Scammers have now been also going after overseas Chinese, Europeans, Americans, Japanese, and Koreans indiscriminately; the wake of these scams has been shocking the world.
Officials of various countries have now issued warnings and urged vigilance against Pig-butchering (shazhupan, 殺豬盤) scams.
The protagonist of our story today, Xiaoli, slightly younger than thirty years old this year, has lived in the UK for many years. Xiaoli came to the UK to study since junior high school and had successfully obtained British citizenship.
Since working hours in the UK are relatively flexible, Xiaoli often downloaded online dating apps in her free time, and would occasionally meet some like-minded friends. One day, someone greeted Xiaoli in English and asked who she was. The other party said that he saw Xiaoli's contact information among his address book contacts, but he couldn't remember which friend she was.
Screenshots of messages between King and Xiaoli in English, early on in their communication
Xiaoli took a closer look at the number to check that this person was indeed a random person, not an acquaintance. However, out of politeness, Xiaoli responded to the other party, explaining that there must have been a mistake, and that they did not know each other previously.
The other party replied that it was no matter; they were destined to meet and thus they should get to know each other.
Seeing his photo (below), Xiaoli was certain that King must be a responsible and trustworthy man because of the cute kid he held in his arms. She thought that his personality must be decent and that he couldn't be a bad person; thus Xiaoli did not hesitate to make this person a new friend.
"King's" fake profile avatar
In the next couple of days, King would send greeting messages to Xiaoli every day, such as "good morning" messages. He never forgot to remind Xiaoli that she should get up for breakfast.
In the process of communication, Xiaoli couldn't wrap her head around King's English: there were always grammatical errors, which made no sense, given that King claimed to be American Chinese. She questioned King about this, but his reply was that because he often texted his relatives and friends in China as such, he still only had a basic level of English. "Since we are both Chinese, can we speak to each other in Chinese then", he told her.
According to King, he was a director of a company in the United States and was now in charge of the management of a branch in the United Kingdom. He was divorced and had a child who studied in St. Mark's School of Texas, which was the highest-ranking private Christian school in the state of Texas.
As they both continue to converse, a kind of love and admiration slowly blossomed in Xiaoli’s heart. King would often expressed his love for Xiaoli during the two months of chatting.
Xiaoli asked to meet King a couple of times but would often face rejection; he explained that it was not convenient for him to meet. However, since King often picked up her phone calls almost immediately whenever she called him, she was certain that he wasn't speaking to any other women. She rationalized that King slaved for long hours every day, and that all his current workaholic efforts were only to create a better future for the two of them.
They would often talk on the phone, discussing their future together, and that this would be the best marriage that God had given her.
On July 2021, just like every other shazhupan scam, King at last brought up his deep mining investment platform, saying that he wanted to show Xiaoli how they could make money together.
Through King’s step-by-step instructions, she downloaded the app under King’s guidance, bought USDT with British pounds, and then transferred the USDT to the investment platform app through "Binance".
At that time, Xiaoli invested $83,000 USD.
After the $83,000 USD was transferred to the platform, she performed all investment operations on the mining platform in accordance with King’s requirements, as she had no prior investment knowledge. That is, until one day, when she needed money, attempted to withdraw some funds, but realized that the funds in the account could not be withdrawn; in disbelief, she repeatedly attempted to withdraw funds from her account on the app without any effect. Instead, she was in for a shock.
Xiaoli's scam platform #ICD
She panicked when she found her account had been frozen: she now needed to pay a 20% tax before she could withdraw the cash from her trading account, otherwise she would be sued by the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department and be served papers from its lawyers. Xiaoli was petrified upon reading the messages from the fraudulent app.
Shocked and terrified, Xiaoli quickly contacted King, whom she trusted, and asked him what was going on, but King assured her that it was a typical requirement of the app. And thus, he manipulated her to pay the 20% in order to withdraw.
In this series of messages, the customer service states that because the profit has exceeded 100% of the "total recharge amount" (initial investment), the user needs to pay 20% as a "personal tax". Showing the "arithmetic", customer service then demands $12,596.40 in USDT to be paid in five days, otherwise the Hong Kong Tax Bureau would come after the victim.
At this point, Xiaoli was certain that King was a scammer; of course, just like every other scammer, King would deny all responsibilities and allegations.
British report: fraud amounted to 145 million pounds
As Xiaoli had been living in UK for many years and rarely pay any attention to Chinese media news, it was only later that Xiaoli realized that she got scammed by "shazhupan", the type of scam that had originated and flourished in China. She has never heard of the "Pig Butchering Scam", and had no idea that there were such frauds in this world where scammers would pretend to fall in love with their victim before defrauding them of their money. She immediately searched various websites and official accounts to confirm the kind of fraud she had encountered.
During this period, many of her friends also encountered the "Pig Butchering Scam".
According to the victims she learned about, she knew that there were other two people who suffered heavy losses. A friend from Westport and Jamaica was defrauded of $2MM USD; even worse, the other was a Chinese friend in the United States who was defrauded of $5MM USD.
"5 milion USD, more than 30 million RMB", Xiaoli laments. "Chinese people in the US, American is even worse, too many people; the number of victims I know so far", the other person writes, "there are 500 of them."
According to Xiaoli, it is not just the loss of $83,000 USD, but the emotions she had invested in "King" for the last two months, of which she was also defrauded by scammers.
In her despair, she thought about committing suicide. She said that she had never experienced that type of sorrow and that she struggled to come to terms with her situation.
The cruelty of these people made her subvert her previous understanding of human nature. Reading about the pig butchering scam and its tactics made it difficult for her to fall asleep for several nights. The stories of the victims deceived by the scammers were too poignant and tragic; furthermore, reading about the situation of the scammers themselves, she never would she thought that the situation in Southeast Asia could be so messy.
And yet, a silver lining in this story appears: through this incident, Xiaoli decided that she would become an ambassador for anti-scam efforts and raise awareness for the Pig-butchering Scam to the world.
Xiaoli's article makes a difference. Here, a fellow victim writes to her: "Can I forward some of your articles? I want the victims in Europe to know about this, there are a lot of things they don't know. I read your article and learned a lot. Let me see how it can be translated into English -- they can't read Chinese!"
"But you don't know who I am, I also don't know who you are, so you can delete my contact." The scammer replies, "Our acquaintance is fate, so can we become friends? My name is Chen Qichao, how may I address you?"
"Since we are fellow villagers [ancestrally from the same province in China], let's communicate in Chinese, this will be more cordial," says the scammer.
"It will be much more convenient to install on the phone. I will give you the link to the official website. Copy the link and enter it in. Download it on the phone. After downloading, take a screenshot and send it to me," the scammer orders.
Screenshots: Process of scammers asking victims to invest