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Cryptocurrency and “pig butchering” scams on the rise; how to detect them and stay safe

Recent reports show an increase in “pig butchering” scams circulating relative to a small spike in cryptocurrency transactions. “Pig butchering” is a colloquial term referring to a certain type of business fraud, so called because it gives payouts and small intermittent withdrawals to “fatten up” the victim and get them to commit to a larger fraud.

For example, a scammer may contact you with an offer of a failsafe way to invest in something like cryptocurrency, asking for a small amount like $100, then return a few weeks later with $200 saying you have doubled your investment. This is presented as proof that their system works, progressing on to a larger investment, i.e. “now if you reinvest that $200, you could double it again!” The scam will proceed until the scammer proposes a big payout, some large spike in the market where you could invest some large amount, “See, the system is working, now just invest $15,000 and be set for life.” Then the scammer vanishes with the larger amount, never to be heard from again.

The FBI and other expert sources have provided a few red flags to look for in the case of a potential scammer:

  • They are in a rush - Scammers will often attempt to hurry you along or compel you to make impulse decisions by insisting that such an opportunity is extremely narrow in time. Finances are a slow and ever evolving market; very few opportunities for investment returns “only last till the end of this week” or in other ways try to hurry you.

  • They are inappropriately friendly - Scammers know victims are more likely to give to people they like, so they will do their best to be affable and friendly. Some even go so far as to fake a romance. This often coincides with a “chance encounter,” such as a wrong number or email address; if someone messages you asking for someone else, then attempts to strike up a friendship, it is likely they are probing you for a scam i.e. “Oh this isn’t Stacy? I’m so sorry! … but while I have you, we might as well chat a little!”

  • They are unwilling to show their face or reveal their identity - Any professional investment broker will have sources and citations and will gladly do business publicly and openly. They have nothing to hide if they’re a professional. If a scammer is presenting themselves as such an investment middleman, probe them for a video call and ask for their contact information like a business name and address that you can research.

  • They instruct you not to talk about the opportunity - Scammers will often say that an offer is “totally exclusive” and it’s “guaranteed to work” so long as you don’t talk about it with anyone. If you are being told not to talk about a business opportunity, it is very likely that opportunity is fraud.

  • They use totally anonymous payment methods - wire transfers and online payment services that are anonymous are often indicators of a scam. Be wary of any transaction using a service that will not leave a paper trail behind, and never engage with any transaction that insists on gift cards or prepaid service cards as a currency.

If you have been scammed, be extremely skeptical of any offers from “hackers” or “industry professionals” insisting they have some exclusive way to get your money back, as these are often follow-up scams attempting to capitalize on your vulnerable state - sometimes it can even be the original scammer attempting to score twice.

If you have been a victim of such a scam, report it ASAP on the FBI’s scam and fraud site, and tell your bank right away. It is unlikely that your money will be recovered, but you may prevent further fraud and help the bank prevent the scammer from profiting.




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