Lonely hearts in Silicon Valley are reportedly falling prey to a wave of “pig slaughtering” crypto scams via dating apps.
An investigator for cybersecurity company Sift found that one in 20 people who approached her on dating apps in San Francisco was working the scam.
Pig slaughtering, or butchering, is a type of scam in which an individual/group puts in weeks or months of work to build a fake relationship with the victim, metaphorically fattening them up. The end goal is to get the victim to invest in crypto via either a duplicated version of a legitimate website, or by transferring funds to a dodgy wallet address.
The scammers often shift the conversations over from dating apps or social media to encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp, and put in countless hours of daily conversation to make their fake personas seem realistic, without ever actually meeting in person in most cases.
A June 2 report from the San Francisco Examiner detailed the accounts of two relatively tech-savvy individuals, referred to as Cy and R for anonymity purposes, who lost a combined $2.5 million to the scam. Both are now members of an online support group hosted by the Global Anti Scam Organization that sees “at least two or three new members” every week.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that such cases are part of “a rising trend” in the local area .
The FBI sent out a general warning over crypto-romance scams and pig slaughtering in April, noting that its Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 4,300 complaints in 2021 resulting in more than $429 million in losses. It stated the scam first originated in China in late 2019, but has since become more prevalent in the U.S.
R’s case in particular is notable as she is an IT manager from the Bay Area who lost around $1.3 million to the scam after first being approached via LinkedIn.
Despite being well versed in computer tech, R stated that the scammer’s professional profile managed to win her trust by being listed as an alumni of the same top tech university that she graduated from in China.
After the conversation moved over to WhatsApp, the scammer worked for a month before finally persuading R to invest in crypto via a dubious website that swiped her funds.
“I never thought it could happen to me because I use tech. I’ve written software.”
Cy, a real estate analyst lost $1.2 million over two months and ended up in psychiatric care after suffering suicidal thoughts.
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“I lost more than just money. I lost my self-confidence,” said Cy. “I have ruined my family’s lives.”
The Global Anti-Scam Organization believes Silicon Valley workers are increasingly falling victim to these scams due to overconfidence in tech-savviness, loneliness as a result of the pandemic and an interest in gaining crypto exposure.