Swine slaughter scams: The anatomy of a rapidly evolving threat

How scammers care for their mark and go in for the kill using the tricks of romance guides and investment scammers

Sometimes you have to say the things that don’t need to be said: Social media and instant messaging make keeping in touch with friends easier than ever. These days, you’re never too far from those in your social circle – as well as pretty much everyone else on the planet. What’s more, you no longer have to guess which time is the most suitable for calling, because sending messages can be more convenient and calm.

But this over-connectedness cuts both ways. You have the world at your fingertips, but so do other people. With the old dividing line almost gone, you’re never out of reach either – and for almost anyone. And while starting new conversations online can be exciting, scammers of all stripes are taking notice. These days, they can simply knock on your virtual door, using increasingly sneaky techniques to scam you out of your money.

Slaughtering of pigs: the tricks of the trade

Surely you are familiar with cold calling, an old-fashioned method that often involves overtly ‘out the gate’ sales pitches. The same term also applies to email and messaging; thus, this kind of prospecting could be used for both legitimate and malicious purposes.

In some types of online fraud, cold contact pays higher dividends when using techniques that are less intrusive, but all the more sophisticated. In most cases, these schemes start with something as innocuous as a message that appears to have been sent to you by accident. But the message, sent “accidentally”, masks the stark reality.

Recently there has been a increasing fraud that cold message to people and build rapport with them, only to trick them later. This scam is called swine slaughter, and has a very apt name, because it comes from farmers who fatten pigs before slaughter with the aim of getting a lot of meat. In our digital sense, this “meat,” you guessed it, is money.

An example of an outreach tactic used also by pig slaughter scammers

Money massacre

Slaughtering of hogs relies on a combination of apps, websites, web hosts and people – in most cases, victims of human trafficking – to build trust with random people over a period of weeks or months, often under the guise of a romantic interest. As such, this scam is not an entirely new genre of scam, as it borrows from the playbook the tried and tested types of scams such as the romance before making an investment scam and wraps it around the prospect of (crypto) wealth.

Indeed, discussions that are entirely online will eventually turn to investment opportunities, usually involving cryptocurrencies, which scammers claim have made huge profits. The victim is then invited to participate – and often succeeds, perhaps driven by fear of missing out on the next big opportunity. Indeed, who hasn’t heard of someone who made a killing after dabbling in crypto?

Enter to kill

After the victim deposits money, the scammer will initially allow them to make a withdrawal; then they finally locked the account claiming they needed a deposit of a percentage of their investor balance to regain access. Even when the deposit is paid, the money is not returned, and the scammer finds new excuses for the victim to send more money.

This may sound preposterous to some: How could anyone strike up such a close relationship with a random person texting out of the blue? However, since most of us have heard or can easily imagine how online dating is also full of scams, it is unbelievable that people fall for such tricks.

Romance, also known as dating scams takes a toll on its victims US$1.3 billion by 2022, according to the latest figures from the US Federal Trade Commission. Nearly 70,000 people are reported to have fallen victim to dating scams, with an average reported loss of US$4,400. One victim loses as much US$2.5 million from being tricked into crypto investing. It’s also safe to say that this still doesn’t capture the magnitude of the problem, with many victims not reporting out of embarrassment.

Industrial scale global fraud

If one person can be tricked into throwing thousands of dollars into this type of scam, the returns from such an operation with multiple victims must be enormous. Indeed, in 2021 alone, US$429 million was lost for pork slaughter fraud. We are talking about fraud on an industrial scale, hiring thousands of people for little or no money. The situation became so dire that both the European Union and the US began to increase their focus in this area, both investigating and prosecuting suspects spreading deception.

What’s worse, with online machine translators reaching a level of quality where they can easily help create convincing scams in multiple languages. Coupled with the emergence of new machine learning-powered chatbots such as ChatGPT, scammers can generate messages that are more persuasive, and at a higher tempo than before, perhaps opening the door for more global operations.

Stay safe from the pork butcher

Despite reading this article, our suggestions for you to help screen this issue will be very similar to those related to the social engineering aspects of other scams, with the addition that the emotionally manipulative hog-slaughtering side of things is much higher. The most important:

  • Be wary of unsolicited messages, including those you appear to have received “accidentally”.
  • Be skeptical – even if you reply to such a message, don’t trust anyone you just met online just because they seem fun.
  • Do not discuss your financial situation with strangers online and be wary of unsolicited investment advice.

However, some additional suggestions may be helpful. That FBI share The following characteristics of pig slaughter scams should be considered as red flags:

  • You were contacted by a long lost contact or stranger on social media.
  • The investment platform URL does not match the official websites of popular cryptocurrency markets/exchanges but they are very similar (type).
  • Investment apps you’ve downloaded generate “untrusted” warnings when launched on Windows, or your antimalware software flags them as potentially harmful.
  • The investment opportunity sounds too good to be true.

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