What Is a Pig Butchering Scam?

This type of malicious scheme traps victims and takes everything they have—and the threat is only growing.

Nishita Gupta
Nishita Gupta January 6, 2023
Updated 2023/01/06 at 3:53 PM

Pig butchering scams were invented in China, where they are called by the Chinese interpretation of the term shāzhūpán due to an approach in which attackers practically “fatten victims up” and then take everything they have. 

These scams are commonly cryptocurrency plots, though they can concern other types of economic trading as well. 

Scammers randomly get in touch with people by text or other social media, dating, and communication media. Oftentimes they’ll pretty much just say “Hi” or something like “Hey Josh, it was nice meeting you last week!” If the person concerned replies that the attacker has the incorrect number, the scammer grabs the chance to start a conversation and scams the victim into feeling like they’ve gotten a new friend. After making a connection, the attacker will present the view that they have been earning a lot of money in cryptocurrency investing and suggest the prey get involved as soon as they can.

Following this, the trickster gets the prey set up with a nasty app or online platform that seems trustworthy and may even copy the platforms of honest financial organizations. Once in the portal, victims can usually find curated real-time market data meant to show the possibility of gains from the investment. And once the prey puts funds in their “investment account,” they can see their balance “grow.”

Preparing the malicious financial platforms to look fair is a hallmark of pig butchering scams, as are other traces that add authenticity, like allowing targets to do a video call with their unknown “friend” or letting them withdraw some money from the platform to comfort them. 

Though the fraud has some new wrenches, you can still catch where it’s going. Once the victim has deposited all the money they have and everything the scammers can get them to borrow, the attackers shut down the account and disappear.

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