Pig Butchering, also known as Sha Zhu Pan, is a type of scam that has been proliferating in recent years across messaging platforms like WhatsApp and on dating apps like Tinder through wrong-number text messages to fake dating prospects.
Pig Butchering borrows tactics from both romance and cryptocurrency scams to make money off of victims. The scam requires perpetrators to gain the victim’s trust by developing a fake relationship.
They fill the victims up with false promises and hopes of a true relationship, which is like feeding a pig in order to “fatten it up” before going in for the kill.
Once the victim has let their guard down, the scammers will start the con. They will talk about their successful investments and hope to pique the curiosity of their faux partner. Establishing this level of trust gives the scammers the ability to truly manipulate the victim into a series of fake investments.
The scammers leverage fake websites built to resemble real investment sites or cryptocurrency pages. They will then walk their victims through the process of purchasing cryptocurrency from legitimate platforms like Coinbase and others in order to send them to their fraudulent investment site.
The fraudulent investment websites are attacker-controlled, which means that they can display falsified dollar amounts, convincing the victim that their investments will be profitable.
Behind the scenes, the scammers will direct the victim’s cryptocurrency to their own wallets, but they can easily change the value on the website to show that their investment was received.
To continue to earn the victims’ trust, they may allow them to transfer some of the funds back out. However, this is short-lived, as once a victim decides to cash out stellar profits, they are met with roadblocks, such as an inability to transfer money out.
They may tell the victims they’ve encountered some type of tax penalty or they need to pay some type of fee separately in order to transfer their funds out. This is where the scammers will demand additional funds, which can add up to thousands of dollars.
Once the victims have lost money, the fake investment websites will cease to work and the scammers will ghost the victims, though some might admit they scammed them all along. Ultimately, the victim is left empty-handed, while the scammer moves on to the next victim.
While Pig Butchering has mostly been outlined in the Western World, the popularity of cryptocurrency and its entry into various markets, along with the stellar profits that have been earned in the space, provides a valuable opportunity for scammers to target users around the globe.
It is unclear if India is tracking these types of scams, but traditional tracking of romance scams and cryptocurrency scams are likely to overlap when it comes to the percentage of those scams being linked to Pig Butchering itself.
Users should be very careful when receiving unsolicited messages on WhatsApp or SMS, claiming to be for someone else or ending up with a wrong number, as well as dating app prospects that are very eager to move off the platform to WhatsApp to continue the conversation.
If you’re ever asked to invest in a get-rich-quick type of scheme, more often than not, you’ll end up losing money, so it’s not worth the risk to entertain these fake opportunities for wealth.
If you do encounter Pig Butchering scams, it is best to report the accounts using the built-in reporting functionality. If you are a victim of Pig Butchering, please contact your local law enforcement to inform them as well as your Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT).
The writer is a Senior Staff Research Engineer, Tenable.