Beware of the 'Pig Slaughter' Crypto Scam Spreading Across America

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New York

The FBI says that America has a “pig-slaughter” problem. And it’s costing victims millions of dollars.

“We’re not talking about what’s happening on the farms,” said Frank Fisher, a public relations specialist for the FBI’s Albuquerque division. “We are talking about a cryptocurrency investment scam that is sweeping the country.”

The term pig slaughter refers to an innocent victim – the “pig” – being tricked by scammers into shelling out cash for a promised high rate of return.

Scammers “fatten the pig by making the victim think they are investing in something and getting them to transfer money into cryptocurrencies,” says District Attorney Jeff Rosen of Santa Clara County, Calif., whose office manages a multi-agency task force fighting crime. technology related.

After criminals “fatten up” their victims’ digital wallets, they steal the money, says Rosen.

Pig-slaughter operations often start with a rudimentary approach, Rosen told CNN: Scammers send millions of unsolicited messages every day to unsuspecting victims via text messages and social media, often with an innocuous note like: “ Hi how are you?”

The scammer operating under a false identity builds a relationship with the victim, sometimes in just a few weeks, before suggesting that the victim “invest” in cryptocurrency.

One technique involves assuring the victim that the scammer has made significant profits from cryptocurrencies, persuading the victim that he or she should not miss out on the benefits of cryptocurrency investments.

Those who fall for the scam are persuaded to send more and more money and even receive fictitious financial statements that make it look like their investments have made a substantial return.

“This is where ‘pig fattening’ comes in,” says Rosen. Eventually, “you get a little suspicious. You try to contact the person who contacted you online and ask for your money back. [But] this person fantasized about you.

Rosen says the holiday season is an especially profitable time for scammers, as they often prey on people who may be feeling lonely.

And while the initial approach is uncomplicated, Rosen says the actual fraud operations his team has investigated – which typically operate overseas, including in Cambodia and China – involve highly sophisticated methods.

“They were trained by psychologists to try to figure out the best way to manipulate people,” he says. “You are dealing with people who are going to use different psychological techniques to make you vulnerable and make you interested in giving up your money.”

Experts say basic awareness and due diligence are essential to protecting yourself against online predators.

“Be very careful when you go on social media and dating apps and someone starts to develop a relationship with you and wants you to start investing,” says the FBI’s Fisher. “Don’t get slaughtered.”

As shoppers spend billions online this holiday season, the FBI says it has also seen an increase in scams involving mega retailer Amazon. “Online criminals’ scams are only limited by their imagination, and they have impeccable timing,” says Fisher.

In one type of scam, “someone calls you and pretends to be from Amazon or another wholesale distributor and says there’s a problem with your credit card,” adds Fisher. The scammer then asks for a new credit card number.

Another variation of the Amazon scam involves a criminal calling a potential victim and indicating that a suspicious purchase was flagged on the user’s account, which resulted in the suspension of purchasing privileges. The victim is asked to make a payment via credit card immediately to reinstate the account.

“Sometimes they even threaten to report you to the police about your purchase,” says Fisher. “Another dead doorbell. She doesn’t fall for that scam.”

Amazon’s security team advises consumers that the company will never ask for personal information from a customer, and users should not respond to emails requesting account data or personally identifiable details.

The company said in a statement that it has worked to remove thousands of online phishing sites and phone numbers associated with impersonation scams and has referred suspected scammers to law enforcement agencies around the world.

“Scammers who try to impersonate Amazon put consumers at risk,” said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of Selling Partner Services at Amazon. “While these scams occur outside of our store, we will continue to invest in protecting consumers and educating the public on how to avoid scams.”

The FBI says other types of scams on the rise this holiday season are largely aimed at defrauding senior citizens. “Scammers tend to target seniors because they know they’re trusting and they know older Americans generally have more money,” says Fisher.

In so-called sweepstakes scams, victims are contacted and congratulated on winning a sweepstakes prize, but are told that they must first send money to cover taxes and processing fees which can be exorbitant.

“Legitimate sweepstakes won’t do that,” says Fisher. “They won’t make you pay upfront to get your money.”

There were approximately 60 victims of fake sweepstakes in New Mexico alone last year, whose collective losses totaled $1 million, he says.

The FBI suggests that people check with elderly relatives and friends about their online habits and whether they may have been targeted by cybercriminals.

“If someone has approached them and you want to be friends with them and develop a relationship,” Fisher says, “ask them questions.”