Pig Butchery: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself From This Effective Online Scam

Key Points in This Article:

  • One of the fastest-growing and most effective new online scams, pig butchery encourages people to invest in cryptocurrency investments that don’t exist.
  • Scammers build a rapport with targets on social media or through dating apps, gain their confidence, and encourage them to invest in a surefire opportunity.
  • You can avoid pig butchery scams by verifying the identity of the person offering you the opportunity and doing due diligence on the investment itself.

Today, ransomware dominates discussions and mainstream media news coverage about cybersecurity. And it’s a huge concern, with attacks targeting more than 80 percent of Canadian businesses and total costs of successful attacks estimated to exceed $1 million on average.

But the frequency and success rate of these attacks threaten to overshadow emerging threats that are potentially just as devastating. Indeed, “pig butchery” is a fast-rising scheme targeting individuals, employees, business owners, and investors.

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What Is Pig Butchery?

Pg butchery is a tactic in which criminals and scammers target individuals, build a rapport with them, then convince them to invest money in supposedly surefire investments. However, the money goes into the criminal’s pockets instead of investments.

The scheme refers to fattening a pig before slaughter, with the victims, in this case, being the proverbial pig. Targets of this scheme often receive a text or social media message out of the blue from a stranger, sometimes purporting to be an old friend. This old friend will exchange a few messages with the target to gain their trust, then steer the conversation to investing. In many cases, scammers will approach targets on dating apps under the guise of a potential love interest, making it easier in some ways to build a connection.

Once the target shows interest, the scammer will offer links to and information about a unique investment that seems legitimate. Scammers use current investing trends to elicit interest; today’s targets hear about seemingly credible cryptocurrency opportunities. Scammers steer targets to authentic-looking websites and encourage them to invest.

But the scam doesn’t stop there. To invest, targets are prompted to set up an online account, as you would with a legitimate broker. Over time, these accounts will display growing returns, which entice targets to invest more. And if the seemingly miraculous returns don’t work independently, the scammer will gently encourage the target to invest more.

However, when a target tries to redeem their investment in part or in full, they’ll encounter notifications that they need to pay additional fees or taxes to process the transaction. A red flag may go up at this point, and when the target tries to contact the cryptocurrency platform, they’ll find themselves unable to get a hold of anyone. If they do, they’ll be repeatedly pressed for the additional fee.

And when they do pay the additional fee, they’ll find themselves unable to withdraw their money no matter what they do. That money was never invested anywhere. Instead, it was pocketed by scammers executing a long financial con.

Why Pig Butchery Works

While it may seem like this scam involves considerable time and effort, it takes less time than you think. And for a criminal, the return on investment is relatively high. They use applications that allow them to try to connect with hundreds, if not thousands, of potential targets at once. And once an initial batch of messages is out, all criminals need is a couple of people to reply to make an effort worthwhile.

Setting up an authentic-looking cryptocurrency brokerage website doesn’t require much time. And manipulating the numbers the target sees on the back end is also simple. Sending empathetic text messages upfront and encouraging ones after a target has begun “investing” doesn’t take long. And when targets are paying thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars, this relatively minimal effort is well worth it.

Further, pig butchery is effective because it preys on people’s natural sensibilities. People feel that if other people are taking a specific action, that action must be valid for them to take too. Further, people fear missing out on opportunities. And today, the news is filled with stories of investors who made millions in crypto. And pig butchery increases the comfort level of those hesitant to invest by employing the compassionate guidance of someone who appears to be a friend or potential romantic partner.

It’s hard for people to deny requests from people they like. The scammer will spend time building a rapport by talking with the target about their family and interests, then sharing their own that mirror the target’s story. For example, a scammer might ask a target when their birthday is and then say they have one in the same month. Or the target may share a story about the death of a loved one; the scammer will follow up with a similar one.

On dating apps, the scheme is even more effective. Infatuation for a potential romantic partner can easily cloud a target’s judgment, making them more susceptible to going along with the investment opportunity when presented and paying attention to red flags that occur.

And once that “friend” has gained a bit of trust, they induce the target to invest gradually, further reducing any reluctance they may have. Further, many people read exclusive offers like inside information on a stock tip or a special offer proffered by a friend as a favour. And they may feel compelled to return the favour by taking the friend up on the offer.

How to Protect Yourself From Pig Butchery

There are a few simple ways to protect yourself from this scam. First, verify their identity if you get a message from someone out of the blue who claims to know you. Ask them a question only they could know. Meet the messenger or potential date in real life. Check their social media accounts. Accounts that have recently been set up with minimal activity and followers are red flags. And check with others who may know them to verify you are speaking to a genuine individual.

For example, if someone claiming to be an old co-worker who you don’t remember contacts you, reach out to others who may have known this person and ask for their contact information. Then try to contact your old co-worker using that information and see if you connect with the same person who is messaging you.

Next, before you hand over a dollar to anyone, do your due diligence. Research the firm you’re investing with. Check with the Canadian Securities Administration, review mainstream publications for company mentions, and, if you have a financial adviser, task them with helping you uncover more about the company. And don’t invest a dollar until you’ve met the person sending you messages.

Finally, if you’re a business owner or IT professional, enable appropriate cybersecurity tools to mitigate the risk of pig butchery. Scammers may send emails to a target’s work email account, so ensure you have enabled anti-phishing software tools. Train employees to recognize suspicious emails and report them. And make sure they’re aware of scams like these and others that criminals and scammers come up with. The best way to protect your business against a cybersecurity threat is to ensure that all employees are up-to-date on the types of threats that are out there and the risks they pose.

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