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Can you imagine falling head over heels in love, only to have your heart broken and your life savings stolen?

It may sound like the plot of a melodramatic movie, but this is the grim reality that victims of pig butchering scams face. 

With the rise of cryptocurrency’s popularity among the general population, a new threat is exploding as well. Pig butchering scams are a pernicious form of fraud that warrants an in-depth investigation.

In this article, we will dive deep into the depraved world of pig butchering scams - a devious combination of romance scams, investment scams, and cryptocurrency scams; meticulously designed to lure victims through emotional manipulation before making off with their money.

From the psychological tactics to the intricate mechanics of these multifaceted scams, we will cover everything you need to know to avoid falling prey to this modern-day insidious crime. By the end of this article, you will have all the knowledge necessary to identify and steer well clear of these scams.

What is a Pig Butchering Scam?

What is a Pig Butchering Scam?

At its core, a pig butchering scam is a devious form of investment fraud that combines the manipulative psychological tactics of romance scams with the complexities of cryptocurrencies to deliver the maximum impact of an investment scam.

The name itself comes from the Chinese expression 杀猪盘 (Shā zhū pán), roughly translated as “Fattening the Pig” or “Pig Killing Plate,"  a disturbing analogy of fattening up a pig before slaughtering it, similar to how scammers build trust and emotional bonds with victims before taking everything they have.

Pig butchering scams may sound bizarre and unbelievable, but rest assured, these scammers are all too real. The typical modus operandi of these scams begins with scammers creating fake profiles across social media sites and dating apps using pictures of attractive people living lavish, extravagant lives.

The goal is simple: to initiate romantic relationships with potential targets. The scammers take their time to groom their marks through patient and calculated interactions over weeks or even months. The scammers wouldn’t shy away from sharing personal details and compromising photos/videos to establish bonds and gain their victims’ confidence.

After forging a strong emotional connection, the scammer gets to work, laying the foundations of the investment scam. They start talking about their financial situation, discussing how unconventional trading or investments helped them make fortunes within a short period of time.

They also claim to have expertise in cryptocurrency trading or investments, or claim to have relatives that are experts in the field. The scammers then offer help to guide the victims' new “love interests” in getting started. The victims, blinded by the constant “love bombing” from their attractive new romantic partners, easily get lured into opening accounts on fake crypto/forex investment platforms that are, in reality, fully controlled by the scammers behind the scenes.

Sometimes, to build legitimacy, the fake platforms allow some small initial investments and trades to process smoothly - even showing modest returns in some cases. This fosters confidence in the scammer’s supposed skills. In reality, of course, these small wins are just smoke and mirrors - played by the puppet masters behind the scenes. The fraudsters simply siphon off any further funds deposited.

The financial bleeding doesn’t just stop there. “It’s all part of the investment game,” they say, pressuring the victim to invest larger and larger amounts into the platforms, continuing the charade of a roller-coaster ride filled with fake profits and gain. Eventually, when the money-well runs dry and the investments stop coming, the scammers block all account access, steal the accumulated funds, and disappear without a trace - the proverbial “slaughtering” of the “fattened pig”.

By this point, the embedded psychological manipulation of the romance scam element makes the betrayal even more gut-wrenching for the victim. Having invested significant emotional bonds along with their money, the victim feels utterly blindsided and distraught for falling for such lies and deception.

Pig butchering scams leverage a potent combination of criminality and cruelty. Methodically grooming emotional connections to gain trust before severe financial exploitation makes this form of fraud uniquely insidious. The financial and emotional damage caused by pig butchering scams makes it unbearable for most of the victims, and that’s why everyone should know how to detect the red flags, to avoid falling victim to these scams.

The Rise of Pig Butchering Scams

The Rise of Pig Butchering Scams

The insidious world of pig butchering scams has seen a meteoric rise in recent years, riding the wave of widespread cryptocurrency adoption and trading. As digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others have entered the mainstream consciousness, nefarious criminals found the perfect vehicle for large-scale fraud operations.

The anonymous, global, and irreversible nature of crypto transactions makes them perfectly suited for pig butchering scams. Scammers can just steal and move huge amounts of funds across borders without much risk of tracing, let alone recovering. Consequently, these scams have exploded since the mid-2010’s.

The recent statistics paint a dire picture. According to data from the FBI, pig butchering scams alone defrauded victims of over $429 million in 2021 - an astonishing and disturbing figure that almost certainly does not capture the full scale of the problem globally. 

High-profile cases have emerged, showing just how lucrative pig butchering can be for criminal syndicates. In December 2023, 4 suspects were apprehended for running a pig butchering scheme that stole $80 from their victims.

Divya Gadasalli, A 25-year-old girl lost $8 million to a pig butchering scam in 2022.

The list keeps going. Since 2019, pig butchering scams have contributed to global investment scams, amounting to a total loss of a staggering $3.31 billion in 2022.

Beyond these headline-grabbing stories, we must recognize that pig butchering scams take countless victims across the world who are too embarrassed or devastated to come forward. Many lose their entire life savings to fraudsters operating with virtual impunity across borders.

And with the continuing growth of cryptocurrency, combined with society’s increasing reliance on social media and digital connections, the threat of pig butchering scams only continues to expand.

Anatomy of a Pig Butchering Scam

Anatomy of a Pig Butchering Scam

To truly understand how the insidious nature of pig butchering scams, it’s important to get a clear picture of the step-by-step process scammers use to carry out these elaborate frauds. Here’s how a pig butchering scam typically takes place:

1) Initial Contact

The first phase involves scammers casting a wide net across the internet to make contact with their potential victims. They create fake profiles across social media sites, dating apps, and online forums, or just simply by sending a “wrong number” text message.

They use pictures of attractive people to get maximum attention, posing as trustworthy individuals living a lavish lifestyle, having shared interests, etc. They use these fake, interesting profiles to spark relationships and personal connections with potential victims.

2) Rapport Building 

Once the scammers make initial contact, they slowly work to gain trust and build emotional bonds with their targets. This process takes somewhere between a few weeks to months. The fraudsters maintain regular interactions with their targets, establishing intimacy by sharing personal details, compromising photos and videos, and expressing romantic interests—also known as love bombing. This grooming process aims to gain the victim’s complete trust.

3) Investment Overture

After gaining the victim’s trust, the scammer starts encouraging the victim to start trading in crypto or other unconventional means. They pose themselves as experienced cryptocurrency investors or traders or claim that they have exclusive insider tips or family connections in the industry.

The scammers will also offer help to guide their new “friend” or “love interest” in getting started, explaining that massive returns are common in their suggested investment field and pointing their victims to fake cryptocurrency platforms they control behind the scenes.

4) Small Wins

To further trap their victims and foster credibility, the fake platforms initially allow some of the initial trades and investments to go smoothly with modest gains. The victims see these successful trades and the system functioning properly during the honeymoon phase, instilling confidence in the scammers’ supposed investing skills.

Of course, these small profits are nothing more than a carefully orchestrated smokescreen.

5) Fattening the Pig

Now that trust has been cemented by the combination of emotional manipulation and small investment wins, the scammers amp up the pressure. Victims are encouraged - even pressured to invest larger and larger amounts into the fake platforms, which continue to display fake profits, gains, and positive returns, making the victim sink deeper into the financial quicksand.

6) The Butchering

Eventually, when the victims try to withdraw their money, the platform starts acting up, claiming there’s an issue with the account, or that the victim needs to pay massive fees or taxes to withdraw their cash.

The charade doesn’t just end there; the scammer keeps pressuring the victim to pay the “fees” or “taxes” to squeeze the last dime from the victim. Or the scammer keeps encouraging the victim to invest even more to recover the lost money.

Eventually, when the victim expresses their inability to invest any further or catch wind of the fraud, the fraudster disappears, severing all contacts. The victim loses their access to the investment platform, or it stops working altogether. And since these transactions usually happen on the blockchain, recovering these funds becomes almost impossible.

Psychological Manipulation Tactics

Psychological Manipulation Tactics

At the heart of pig butchering scams lies a ruthless exploitation of human psychology and emotional vulnerabilities. To understand how victims become so deeply ensnared, we must examine the specific manipulation tactics utilized by these criminal operations.

Romance and Emotional Bonds

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of a pig butchering scam involves the cultivation of false romantic relationships and emotional connections.

Scammers take their time to patiently interact with the victims over an extended period: sharing personal stories, photos, and videos, and spinning compelling narratives. Professing romantic interest along with expressions of vulnerability and intimacy also allows deep emotional bonds to develop.

So when the perpetrators eventually disappear with all the stolen money, the sense of betrayal cuts far deeper than just financial damages. Victims get this overwhelming feeling of losing someone they deeply trusted and cared for, further exacerbating the devastation.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

When discussing pig butchering scam cases, one question many people raise is, “Why would anyone invest further in a shady platform after losing access to their money?”

The answer to that question can be a bit complicated. Even after investing initial funds in fraudulent cryptocurrency platforms, victims fall prey to the “sunk cost fallacy,” which compels them to continue investing more and more money. The psychological principle states that once people invest resources in something, they feel obligated to persist with it to avoid recognizing the losses.

Scammers take full advantage of this cognitive bias, providing the victims with small initial wins on the fake investment platforms to lure them in. Once the victims start putting money in, they ignore all the red flags and keep investing more and more cash into the scam, desperate not to “lose” the money they have already committed. This feedback loop makes exiting the fraud extremely difficult.

Overconfidence and False Credentials

Building on small initial investment gains, fraudsters create an environment of inflated confidence in their supposed investment skills and credentials. The platforms are also designed to display compelling graphs of gains, exploiting human tendencies to see patterns confirming what they want to believe.

The scammers shamelessly represent themselves as highly experienced portfolio managers, traders, and qualified financial advisors - or at least claim to have family ties with some of these experts. They take full advantage of the complexities surrounding advanced crypto investment strategies and little-understood altcoin markets to show legitimacy and competence. The resulting overconfidence causes many victims to ignore the obvious red flags.

Impersonation and Social Proof

Pig butchering scams frequently attempt to bolster their legitimacy by using reputable company names and brand identities. They impersonate familiar, verified businesses or create fake job opportunities to get a degree of false social proof.

The scammers would also go as far as hacking the social media accounts of friends and family members of victims in an attempt to manipulate them into thinking that the scam opportunity is actually genuine and endorsed by the people they know.

Combining this with other persuasive tactics, victims can become dangerously overconfident in the authenticity of the fraud.

Protecting Yourself from Pig Butchering Scams

Protecting Yourself from Pig Butchering Scams

Now that you know about the utterly devastating impacts that pig butchering scams can have on victims’ lives and savings, taking measures to protect yourself is critical.

While no precautions guarantee 100% safety from determined fraudsters, implementing certain practices can dramatically reduce your chances of falling victim to a pig butchering scam.

Extreme Skepticism is Key

Above all else, maintaining a posture of extreme and constant skepticism is crucial for avoiding scams. Be very cautious when dealing with unsolicited investment opportunities or advice, especially from any new online contacts or someone with romantic interests. If they’re offering to assist with cryptocurrency trading or investment guidance, stay away from them. Pig butchering scams rely entirely on gaining your trust, so err on the side of caution.

Always be responsible with your sensitive personal information, financial details, login credentials, or account numbers. Whatever you do, never disclose these details to unverified individuals under any circumstances. Always be on high alert for overly persistent requests for your data.

Bonus tip: Use multi-factor authentication everywhere possible to protect important accounts. And if something seems even slightly off or too good to be true, trust your instincts and walk away.

Build Financial Literacy

One of the common exploits pig butchering scams rely on is leveraging the victims’ lack of literacy around cryptocurrencies, investment products, and financial markets.

Educating yourself on the basics of digital currencies, how trading platforms work, and identifying legitimate business practices can be the difference between keeping yourself safe from online scams like the pig butchering scam and falling victim to them.

Educate yourself on a regular basis; learn how to spot red flags like the lack of formal registration for investment entities, unrealistic profit and return promises, use of obscure altcoins, and overly complex trading methods described vaguely.

Always remember that lacking financial literacy makes you a bigger target.

Establish Legitimate Relationships

This goes without saying, but it’s always a good idea to not mix new relationships with financial investments.

If you do wish to start investing or trading cryptocurrencies, be sure to establish formal relationships only with licensed, regulated, and vetted financial advisors, firms, and platforms. Always perform thorough research and only deal with entities registered in your home country. Review qualifications, registrations, and licenses carefully. Read the fine print on terms of service, privacy policies, and any investment prospects to know what you’re signing up for.

Also, If you’re trying to date online, just stick to it. Never take investment advice from unsolicited contacts online. Meet them in person if possible. With the help of AI, criminals are able to create any form of persona they want. So meeting in person is your best bet when it comes to online dating.

Our open-source intelligence services can verify the identity of individuals with speed and precision. Contact us to initiate an investigation today!

Respond Appropriately if Victimized

If you suspect you may have fallen victim to a pig butchering scam, act quickly. Immediately report any fraud to the proper authorities in your country and provide as much detail as possible on the cryptocurrency wallets, accounts, and investment platforms involved. You may be able to help prevent further losses for others.

Additionally, contact your financial institution and cryptocurrency exchange to report all compromised accounts and request additional security steps be taken. They may be able to freeze funds or prevent further unauthorized access.

Most importantly, do not continue engaging with the suspected fraudsters in hopes of recovering lost funds - they will simply attempt to extract more money through new twists on their scam. Cut communication with them immediately.


Pig butchering scams exploit both romantic vulnerabilities and the complexities of cryptocurrency, making them extremely sophisticated. Without proper education and vigilance, your chances of falling victim to these pervasive scams are very high.

No matter how genuine these relationships or investment platforms may appear, applying healthy skepticism, building financial know-how, and following proper precautions can dramatically reduce your odds of falling victim to pig butchering scams. Because as long as profit remains obscenely lucrative, scammers will do their best to lure new victims.

Don’t fall prey to the seductive lures of pig-butchering scams. Stay alert, stay vigilant, and never hesitate to report suspicious activities. Only your timely actions can save you and others from emotional and financial devastation.


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