Everything You Need to Know About Pig-Butchering Scams

a woman concerned because she got scammed online

Contrary to its agricultural roots, pig-butchering has become a global scam phenomenon, surging significantly since the pandemic. According to a new study, pig-butchering scammers have likely stolen more than $75 billion in cryptocurrency between 2020 and 2024. In the wake of this financial threat, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about pig-butchering, empowering you to safeguard your finances for a successful future.

What are pig-butchering scams?

Named after the farming practice of fattening livestock before slaughter, pig-butchering scams portray victims as unsuspecting pigs, with scammers playing the role of butchers. This metaphor emphasizes the gradual process of luring victims into what appears to be a legitimate investment before suddenly disappearing. These scams are typically triggered by a deceptive “wrong number” text, then victims are pulled into the maze of fake crypto investments. Once the funds are sent, the illusion shatters—the investments were all fake, and the scammers vanish, leaving their victims grappling with financial ruin.

How do pig-butchering scams work?

  1. Initial Contact: The scammer initiates contact through unsolicited messages or calls, reaching out via text, social media, or messaging apps like WhatsApp. This seemingly random approach aims to establish a connection with the victim, and the scammers research their victims on social media for a more personalized approach.
  2. Developing Trust: Over days or even months, the fraudster engages in non-investment-related conversations, aiming to break down the target's defenses. This involves sharing personal details, adopting various personas, and fostering a connection by exploiting the victim’s vulnerabilities.
  3. Steering Towards Investments: The scammer subtly guides the discussion toward investments, often claiming to have ties to a reputable financial institution for added credibility.
  4. Crafting Illusion: The scammer introduces the illusion of wealth, sharing screenshots of alleged brokerage accounts that showcase significant gains. This visual manipulation ultimately convinces the victim that following their instructions will lead to profits.
  5. Verification and Instructions: Rather than directly soliciting money, scammers present an opportunity for victims to “control” their own accounts. The scammer guides the victim through verifying their brokerage platforms, providing detailed instructions for the supposed investment.
  6. Simulated Prosperity: The victims, believing they are making sound financial decisions, use the fake brokerage websites and apps. These platforms mimic authentic ones, complete with tools simulating fake results. This creates a false sense of prosperity for the victim.
  7. Evasion and Exit: After the victim invests, the scammer vanishes, leaving behind worthless investments and shattered trust. Most scammers route the stolen funds to centralized crypto exchanges for conversion to traditional money, underscoring the severity of financial losses endured by victims.

How do scammers use artificial intelligence in pig-butchering?

Regrettably, artificial intelligence (AI) isn't only for the good guys. In fact, the rise of AI has armed scammers with potent tools, including generative AI for producing realistic videos, fake IDs, false identities, and convincing deepfakes. These technological capabilities pose considerable risk, particularly in large-scale social engineering scams. Additionally, fraudsters utilizing AI can mimic a person's voice within three seconds of recorded data, heightening the threat level and calling for increased awareness and proactive measures.

Who falls prey to pig-butchering scams?

Contrary to stereotypes, pig-butchering scams target more affluent individuals, such as executives and professionals, according to the 2022 Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) report. Individuals between 30 and 49 years old are frequently targeted because scammers know they have aspirations of growing their wealth while maintaining their current lifestyle. Another at-risk demographic includes those approaching retirement, actively seeking investment opportunities to secure their financial future. Scammers exploit their sense of vulnerability and urgency to lure them into deceitful schemes.

Who runs pig-butchering scams?

Pig-butchering scams have a stronghold in Southeast Asia, driven by the operations of scam sweatshops under the control of Chinese criminal syndicates. Victims of human trafficking find themselves trapped in the web of pig-butchering schemes, and they are forced to choose between becoming a source of income for the syndicate or facing life-threatening consequences. The United Nations estimates that over 200,000 individuals are held captive  in these scam compounds, painting a troubling picture of exploitation.

How does Armed Forces Bank protect me from scams?

In the world of global scams like pig-butchering, Armed Forces Bank deploys an impressive defense strategy. Our commitment to financial security is unwavering, demonstrated through proactive education initiatives that equip our team and clients with the knowledge to navigate the complex terrain of financial fraud.

While banking clients should always maintain vigilance, actively monitor their accounts, stay cautious with transactions, and be skeptical of unsolicited communications, Armed Forces Bank takes the lead in providing robust security measures. Our advanced software stands guard and detects anomalies within client accounts, which demonstrates our dedication to protecting your financial well-being.

Furthermore, our bank provides exclusive products with inclusions that elevate your security. For instance, our Access Rewards Checking* accounts are armed with the following advanced features:

  • Identity Theft Expense Reimbursement Coverage1 — Receive up to $10,000 to help pay expenses, clear your name and restore your identity, should you become the victim of identity fraud.
  • Dark Web Monitoring — Observe your personal information on the dark web and receive alerts when your personal information is exposed. (registration/activation required)
  • Comprehensive Identity Theft Resolution Services — Should you suffer identity theft, your very own dedicated fraud resolution specialist will help you every step of the way until your identity is restored.
  • Credit File Monitoring — Daily credit file monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your credit report. (registration/activation required)
  • Identity Monitoring — Includes surveillance over 1,000 databases. (registration/activation required)
  • Online Identity Theft News Center and Valuable Phone and Web Resources — (registration/activation required)

At Armed Forces Bank, we don't just adhere to standards; we set them, providing a level of security that distinctly stands out in the financial arena. If you discover that you've fallen prey to any financial scam, report it to your bank right away. Our committed team will promptly guide you through further steps to safeguard your finances.

Seeking more insights on identifying scams? Explore tips and tricks in our previous blogs to spot phone scams, email scams, and text message scams. Stay informed and secure with Armed Forces Bank.

Member FDIC

*Opening deposit required. Monthly service charge applies. Closing new accounts within 90 days of opening will result in a $20 early closure fee.

1 Special Program Notes: The descriptions herein are summaries only and do not include all terms, conditions, and exclusions of the Benefits described. Please refer to the actual Guide to Benefit and/or insurance documents for complete details of coverage and exclusions

INSURANCE DISCLOSURE: Insurance products are NOT insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency; NOT a deposit of or guaranteed by the bank or any bank affiliate. Coverage is provided through the company named in the Guide to Benefit or on the certificate of insurance.