Online scams are rampant in India, with new cases of victims losing lakhs and crores to these online hawkers daily. Alarmed by the growing frequency of these scams, Zerodha Co-Founder and CEO Nithin Kamath recently shed light on a particularly sophisticated form of fraud known as “pig butchering” scams, which are estimated to have siphoned off tens of thousands of crores.
In a recent post on microblogging site X (formally Twitter), Zerodha CEO Nithin Kamath highlighted the growing prevalence of pig butchering scams in India. He reveals that these scams, which involve scammers building rapport with victims online before defrauding them, have resulted in losses amounting to tens of thousands of crores. ” It is scary how many people fall for fake job offer scams, scammy high-return investment schemes and crypto investments, etc,” he wrote.
What is Pig Butchering scams
The term “pig butchering” comes from the Chinese phrase “Shazhu pan,” which refers to the practice of fattening a pig before slaughtering it. Similarly, these scammers “fatten up” their victims emotionally and financially before taking their money.
It is a type of investment fraud that combines elements of romance scams or cryptocurrency scams. The scammers, typically organised crime syndicates, target individuals through dating apps and social media platforms. They then try to establish an online relationship as a friend or lover with the victim, fostering trust and affection over time.
Once the victim is emotionally invested, the scammers introduce the idea of investing in cryptocurrency or other seemingly lucrative ventures. To gain trust the scammers also often claim to have insider knowledge or a proven track record of success. The scammers will encourage the victim to make small initial investments, showing impressive returns to gain their confidence. However, as the victim invests more money, the scammers will disappear, leaving them with nothing.
What makes these scams threatening is that scammers often exploit vulnerable individuals who may have fallen victim to other types of scams. Many of the perpetrators are themselves victims of human trafficking or other forms of exploitation. They are forced to scam Indians online by using social media platforms and building trust with unsuspecting victims, often using fake profiles of the opposite sex.
Kamath even shared a report of a similar scam case involving 15 Indians who were lured by an international job offer but later found themselves trapped at an unknown location in military-ruled Myanmar.
Case of Indians trapped in Myanmar
As reported by Hindustan Times, one of the 15 victims, Stephen Wesley, one day received a promising job opportunity online with a Chinese company in Dubai. Initially enticed by an offer of $1,100 per month, more than doubling his current income, Wesley was lured with the promise of a position in the graphic department after a month in customer support and data entry.
In July, Wesley flew to Dubai for an interview, discovering that 13 others had arrived through various agents, all drawn by enticing job offers advertised on social media platforms. Housed in Dubai’s Investment Park, their interview was indefinitely delayed, and communication seemed normal until they were asked to send a video, declaring they were all selected.
The situation took a harrowing turn when the group was transported to Mae Sot in western Thailand, near the Myanmar border, under the pretense of an illegal drop-off. Plunged into darkness at an unknown destination, their phones were confiscated, leaving them stranded and isolated due to language barriers.
Later, they were transported to what Wesley described as a concentration camp. The victims were subjected to gruelling work hours, stringent security measures, and harsh punishments. Their desperate attempts to seek help from the agents proved futile.
The victims’ ordeal, however, came to an end when Wesley reported the incident to the Tamil Nadu DGP, pleading for rescue from the oppressive conditions. Authorities swiftly intervened and they were rescued.
Beware of lucrative offers
Explaining the nature of such online frauds, Kamath cautioned that these scams are not limited to any geographical boundary, and the perpetrator could also be a victim of a larger scheme. He highlighted the significance of exercising caution when interacting with unfamiliar individuals online and conducting rigorous research before deciding on any investment venture or job.
Here is how you can protect yourself from scam
- Be wary of unsolicited messages on WhatsApp, social media, and dating apps.
- Exercise caution when prompted to download unknown apps or open suspicious links.
- Scammers often target your emotions, such as hopes, fears, dreams, or greed. Avoid impulsive decisions.
- Remain calm and avoid panicking, as hasty decisions can lead to falling prey to scams.
- Seek guidance from law enforcement or legal counsel if you have doubts or concerns.
- Be cautious of promises of jobs, high returns, or requests for financial information.
- Never disclose sensitive personal information, including Aadhaar, passport details, or financial data.
- Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is.