The Pig Butchering Scam: What is it, How to Avoid it, and What to Do if You Were Impacted

March 15, 2024
3 min

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Online scammers are becoming more creative by the day, thinking up new ways to defraud unsuspecting victims of their hard-earned money. One of these recent scams is "The pig butchering scam," a long-term scam that has even caught the attention of the FBI.

In this article, we'll explain the pig butchering scam and share helpful tips on what to do if this scam impacts you. We’ll also share how you can protect yourself from being a victim of pig butchering, from getting second phone numbers to using proxy identities.

What is the pig butchering scam? 

Financially savvy Scott from South Boston got a text from someone interested in building a relationship with him. For weeks, they chatted about everything, from food to work and personal life, and they also had a video chat. 

Money was certainly not the center of their discussion, in fact, the only time Scott's friend mentioned money, he was talking about an investment he had made on a trading app. 

Scott, being cautious, explicitly told him that he wasn't going to give him any money, but his online friend didn't want Scott to give him any money. Instead, Scott's friend told him that he would show him how to invest in the app with a few dollars–and Scott was more comfortable with that after he saw how legit the trading app looked. 

He started with only $500 and increased his investments when he saw the gain he was making and confirmed that he could withdraw his money. Eventually, Scott invested up to $300,000 before realizing he could no longer withdraw the money from the app. 

Scott fell victim to a pig-butchering scam: a long-term financial scam that combines social engineering techniques with financial fraud. With pig butchering, scammers target people with a lot of money and try to gain their trust through several means, which may even include romantic relationships. 

Pig butchering is such a calculated scam that victims don’t realize they're being scammed until after losing all of their money. 

Who is a pig butchering scam target?

Criminals know that targeting someone who does not have sufficient funds to supply their scheme won't make sense. So, they focus on individuals who can bring home the “bacon.” These people may post vacations or photos of big purchases on social media or even have their names listed on company websites. (Just another reason you should limit what you share online. )

In addition to these marks, scammers will also look for older adults who may be reaching retirement age and who may not have a good grasp of online investment opportunities. With this demographic, there is an even greater risk of loss if the person lives alone and works off of a fixed income.

How does the pig butchering scam work?

Pig butchering scams are slow, and there's usually no brute force, coercion, or fear. You may even feel like you're in control–until you’re not. 

1. The scammer contacts the target

Scammers will contact a person via email, SMS messages, "wrong number" calls, or social media messages. They then lower the target’s guard by building a rapport with them through small talk, daily check-ins, comments on social media posts, compliments, offers of professional advice, and even indirect romantic hints. 

As the relationship grows, the victim feels comfortable with the perpetrator and develops trust.

2. The pitch

The pitch is when the scammer goes in for the "slaughter." Once they feel that the victim is comfortable, the criminal will pitch a "wonderful" investment opportunity and make ROI promises they never intend to keep. 

They may ask the target to download a "trading app" or sign up for a fraudulent investment website. 

3. The victim invests

At this stage, many scammers will then show how lucrative the opportunity is in real time, walking the victim through early trades and demonstrating small, immediate gains. Scammers use this method to appear official and to offset any concerns the victim may have about parting with their money. 

Because of the rolling nature of investments, these scam artists can continue to bilk unsuspecting people out of tens of thousands of dollars before anyone gets suspicious. This was how Emily, a recent divorcee, got bilked of $80,000 in a crypto romance scam

Emily, who had been single for over six years, decided to start dating again, and she opened a dating app, “Hinge,” to help her find a partner fast. It wasn’t long before she met a gentleman from Seattle who was a wine trader. 

He seemed like a sincere man. They both began talking and eventually started dating. In the short course of their relationship, he told her about how much money she could make from cryptocurrency investments and then convinced her to invest $80,000. This was how Emily lost her money.

scam flow

4. The scammer disappears.

When the victim is ready to cash out, there will suddenly be technical issues with the investment app, or the scammer will ghost entirely. Sometimes, when the victim begins to catch on, the criminal will drag the relationship out by promising even bigger returns if they wait a little longer. 

Eventually, the scammer drops off the face of the earth. They use fake accounts and take careful measures to cover their tracks. Many are located overseas, making it almost impossible to recover any losses.

How to spot a pig butchering scam before you're impacted

To avoid a pig butchering scam, there are a few things you should look for to avoid falling victim.

Receiving "wrong number" texts 

Watch out for realistic messages from unknown sources. These scam texts usually come from scammers who initiate contact with you “mistakenly,” only to continue texting you afterward.

If they don’t stop messaging you after you made it clear that you’re not the person they’re trying to contact, block their number to cut off their access to you. You can also report them to the authorities so that their contact can be flagged.

Contacts from strangers 

Be very wary of any communication coming from someone you don't know. Let's be honest: unless you publicly request that new people connect with you, there's a good chance that an unknown person isn't going to reach out to be your new friend. Never trust a stranger on the internet with personal or financial information.

Also, pay attention to new connections who seem pushy about staying in contact and who want to have increasingly personal conversations. Making new friends is great, but the internet is risky, and any online relationship should come with a healthy dose of suspicion. 

Try and reduce your digital footprint so scammers won't have so much information about you or your interests to initiate a conversation.

Pig butchering romance scams

Pig butchering is a billion-dollar industry; Inca Digital, a tech company currently investigating 3000 pig butchering organizations, recently shared that $10 billion has been lost due to these scams. 

Anyone can be a victim of these crimes, so beware of sudden "love bombing" efforts from a new friend or romantic interest. Love bombing occurs when someone shows an overwhelming amount of attention and active interest in someone else, intending to use emotion to gain their trust and compliance. 

Crypto investment opportunities

An acquaintance rekindles an old friendship and begins discussing their "wonderful crypto investment opportunity." These people are not above using old relationships to access your wallet. Although, sometimes, the person doesn't know they're pulling you into a pig butchering scam as they're victims themselves–which makes the scenario even worse.

Sometimes, a crypto investment website will offer an entry deal that's just too good to be true (because it is). Sometimes, these sites are new and will disappear after they've scammed enough people to profit.

What to do if you think you've been involved in a pig butchering scam

Finding out that you have fallen victim to a pig butchering scam can be a painful realization. These scams don't just affect your financial health but also your emotional health, as some victims may experience heartbreak. 

But in all of these, you need to find a way to recover and protect yourself from future attacks. Here are some things you can do:

1. Break off all contact & block

Pig butchering scammers are trained to be manipulative; they can further trick you into believing they were not involved in the scam and want to help you recover the money you lost. 

However, they have no plans to help you and are only trying to appease you and regain your trust so they can scam you again. That’s why breaking off all contact and blocking them everywhere is important. 

2. Keep your personal information safe

While the internet can be a good place to make new friends and expand your network, you should know that only a few people you meet online are genuine. Some people you meet online would be scammers in disguise so be careful how you share your personal information. You could stay completely anonymous online using  Cloaked.

Cloaked is a data privacy platform that is revolutionizing user privacy online. Cloaked has a password manager that auto-updates users' passwords on their various online accounts. It also has “Identities”, a feature that creates disposable email addresses and phone numbers that cannot be linked to you. This feature supports anonymous calls and has a dedicated inbox for emails.

Cloaked also allows you to securely store non-password information, such as your API keys and house addresses, in an encrypted vault, ensuring your personal information is safe.


Get started with Cloaked

3. Change all passwords & logins 

If you previously shared your passwords or logins with them or their phishing websites or apps, you need to change your passwords immediately. Password manager apps can help you change the passwords to all of your online accounts in one click and at the same time.

Clocked has an AutoCloak feature that can change the passwords and identities of all your online accounts in one click simultaneously. 

4. Report the account 

Reporting the scammer's account(s) may not help you recover your lost funds, but it would ensure that the scammer cannot scam anyone using that account. It could also assist authorities in catching the perpetrators of the crime and data privacy specialists in advising people appropriately on how to avoid falling victim to pig butchering.

5. File a report

A detailed report of the incident should be filed with the authorities immediately after the incident. This is important in uncovering those responsible for the criminal act, as the police and the FBI are now very invested in pig butchering cases. 

6. Monitor your accounts 

Keep track of the activities on your accounts to ensure that the scammers no longer have access to your accounts. If you notice any irregular activity, report the activity immediately and change your password. 

If you still doubt the security of your account, then you can move your money to a different, more secure account.

More about Pig Butchering Scams

Let's answer some frequently asked questions on pig butchering.

Can you recover your crypto after a pig-butchering crypto scam? 

You could, but it’s very challenging: it takes lots of time, money, and effort. You would have to engage a crypto tracing specialist to help you recover your funds, but this would only work if the money were sent through a pseudo-anonymous blockchain like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

How do I know if I am talking to a scammer?

Any stranger who asks you to invest a sum of money online is most likely a scammer. Another mark is when the person does too much, too soon, or when it looks too good to be true.

What does a romance scammer say?

Romance scammers say everything a normal friend would say, but remember, they're not your friends.

Make it harder for scammers to find you with Cloaked

One last thing before you go: only enter an investment opportunity with someone or any company after validating the trading platform and doing your due diligence. If the platform or company is new or there is a limited amount of information on it, then it's likely a scam. 

No matter how legitimate the opportunity appears, it's always best to consult with your trusted financial advisor (not someone brand new you just met on the internet) before giving anyone your hard-earned money.

Want even more peace of mind? Eliminate the risk of nefarious "wrong number" texts and calls, or sudden emails from "new friends." Use Cloaked to protect your online info–and prevent the problem before it starts.

Cloaked is a privacy-first app that makes your online data invisible by creating new identities online. These new identities include usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, and passwords you can use on any website, app, or social account. Cloaked's identities are masked and cannot be linked to any of its users. 

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In addition to Cloaked identities, Cloaked is a password manager that creates strong passwords for users' multiple accounts and stores these passwords in encrypted storage.

Never fear giving out your personal information again! Use Cloaked identities 
to protect your privacy anywhere you go.

Get started with Cloaked.

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You can try Cloaked for free for 14 days
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