Protect yourself from pig butchering scams

Date Posted:Wed, 15th May 2024

Protect yourself from pig butchering scams

Pig butchering scams are a sophisticated form of fraud that are beginning to gain global attention. This is not only due to the dual threats of psychological manipulation and financial destruction, but also increasing evidence of how these scams are operating at a large scale. So what is a pig butchering scam and how can you avoid becoming a victim?


What are Pig Butchering Scams?

Pig butchering scams, also known as “sha zhu pan,” originate from a metaphor where the scammer “fattens” their target like a pig before “slaughtering” them—essentially extracting a substantial amount of money. This type of scam is a sinister evolution of romance and investment fraud, where scammers build a deep emotional connection with their victims over time before coaxing them into making financial commitments.

How it works

1. Initial Contact: Scammers often initiate contact through social media, dating apps and even via text messages or emails. They often create convincing profiles with appealing photos and backgrounds to attract their victims. This initial contact can appear to be a message meant for someone else. The scammer is waiting for a response before striking up a conversation.

2. Grooming and Bonding: Over weeks or months, the scammer builds a strong emotional relationship with the victim. They are attentive, supportive and engaging, often making the victim feel valued and loved.

3. The Financial Hook: Once a strong emotional bond is established, the scam starts to shift towards financial matters. The scammer may mention a lucrative investment opportunity with high returns in a short period. Initially, small amounts are requested to show the ease and profitability of the investment.

4. Increasing Demands: As the victim grows more comfortable and sees the initial “returns” (these are often fake and falsely displayed by the scammer), they are encouraged to invest larger sums. The scammer continues to manipulate emotionally, often creating scenarios that urgency or an emotional plea to justify the need for more money.

5. The Slaughter: Eventually, when the victim is unable or unwilling to invest more, the scammer disappears, often taking all communication offline along with the victim’s money. At this stage, the victim is left financially and emotionally devastated.

Impact on Victims

Victims of pig butchering scams suffer from severe financial losses which can run into thousands or even millions of pounds.

A recent study in the US claims as much as $75 billion has been moved globally into cryptocurrencies from these scams over the past four years.

The emotional betrayal adds another layer of harm, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The isolation that often follows, due to the stigma of falling for such a scam, can make recovery even harder.

Prevention and Awareness

1. Education and Awareness: Raising awareness about these scams is crucial. Potential targets should be educated on the signs of such scams, such as the sudden onset of a close relationship or unbelievable financial opportunities that look too good to be true.

2. Verification: Individuals should verify the identities of those they meet online through video calls and be wary of profiles that appear too perfect or lack a digital footprint beyond the platform where they met.

3. Investment Caution: Be sceptical of any unsolicited investment advice or opportunities, especially those promising high returns with little to no risk. Legitimate financial advisors and investments are typically well-regulated.

4. Emotional Checks: It’s essential to remain grounded, even in seemingly genuine relationships formed online. Consulting with trusted friends or family about new relationships or investments can provide a critical outside perspective.

Origins of pig butchering scams

What makes this scam different from many other types of internet fraud is that they are rarely carried out by a lone individual. Instead the scammers are part of large criminal groups, often located in south east Asia. A BBC World Service documentary in 2023 spoke to victims of the scam and others who were lured into working at ‘scam compounds’ in Cambodia.

Pig butchering scams are particularly vile due to their exploitation of human emotions. The financial repercussions are immense, but the breach of personal trust leaves a lasting scar. Awareness, vigilance, and education are powerful tools in combating these ruthless scams. By understanding and spreading knowledge about these fraudulent schemes, potential victims can safeguard themselves against such devastating emotional and financial damage.

Conflict International has experts in proactive risk advisory services that can provide you with the strategic foresight you need to safeguard your future. Please contact us for a confidential consultation.