Scam Alert: Pig Butchering

by Spero Financial

Have you received what seems like a random message that might just say “hi” or have some honest questions about how they are connected to you? If you’re like most with a cellphone, the answer is most likely yes! These increasingly common messages are far from accidental and are far from harmless confusion; they are the first step in the process of steering a friendly conversation into a scam scheme that will take your money and peace of mind if you are not careful.

This process, commonly referred to as Pig Butchering, targets people of all walks of life all around the world. While you may be thinking there is no way you could ever experience a scam like this, it might be helpful to know what Pig Butchering is so that you can stay alert if the situation ever does arise. Take look at how fraudsters typically go about this scam and how you can stay protected!

Side note: Before we jump into the article, we first must address the scam’s name – Pig Butchering. You probably grimaced when reading it, as there is nothing flattering about it. It references the practice of fattening a pig before slaughter. In short, this is what scammers do to their victims as part of this latest scheme. So, let’s learn more.

First, how do fraudsters do it?

They begin by creating a fake identity.

The first thing they do is create a fake online profile. These social media accounts typically feature photos (which might be stolen) that give the impression that they live a lavish lifestyle. While some scam profiles are obviously fake, these profiles may appear to be a real person and initially may not raise any red flags.

After establishing a fake identity, they will reach out.

Once they’ve built their profile, the fraudster will start sending messages often on social media. However, they have been known to use messaging platforms, like WhatsApp, by pretending they messaged the wrong number.

After initial contact, they then work to spark conversation and win your trust!

After sending that first message, the fraudster works to spark a real conversation. They often ask questions about life, location, family, or work to attempt to gain valuable information. They may even respond with fake information about their own life to relate to you.

Soon, they’ll switch the conversation to business!

Here is where they will attempt to sell you on investing. They will share success stories about their own experiences in investing and may even share screenshots of accounts with counterfeit balances. Once they’ve shared their successes, they will work to convince you to open your own investment account at their online brokerage which is ultimately a scam!

If they can convince you to open an account and deposit money, anything deposited will go straight to the scammer.

They will continue to manipulate you into investing more by trying to prove it is legitimate.

Fraudsters often work to ease doubts by allowing you to withdraw money a few times to prove the process is legitimate. Once they’ve convinced you that it’s real, they will continue to pressure you to deposit more and more into the account and may even use tactics to pressure you to take out loans, liquidate retirement accounts, or even take out a loan against your house!

Finally, they will cut you off!

Once you reach your limit and stop depositing money, everything comes to a stop! Suddenly, you will be unable to make withdrawals or you will lose your entire investment from one big loss.

How do you keep yourself safe?

Stay alert and cautious!

The best defense against fraudsters is staying alert and cautious! If you get a message that doesn’t seem normal, it’s best to not respond. If you happen to catch yourself in a conversation that turns towards discussing investments, it might be wise to cut off contact and consult a local investment professional.

Do your research.

If you are considering investing, be sure to do your research and speak to investment professionals before transferring or depositing money. Doing your research before going through with an investment opportunity could be the difference between losing your life savings or growing it.

It's better to be safe than sorry!

Remember, if you have any doubts, it’s always better to be safe than to be sorry! If any doubts or red flags arise, don’t ignore them. Stop and evaluate what your doubts surround and if necessary, do more research or stop contact altogether.

Finally, stop contact if you believe you've been targeted!

If you believe you have been communicating with a fraudster, stop all contact! If anything in this article rings a bell or raises that red flag, stop contact and block the account or number. If you have already started the process of creating an account or transferring money, report the situation to your financial institution and to law enforcement as soon as possible.

Don’t wait to report! The sooner you report, the better chance your financial institution has the ability to reverse any fraudulent transactions and the better chance law enforcement has to trace, freeze, or recover stolen funds.

Keep in mind that most fraudsters will appear to be very influential and might even be convincing with their stories. However, once you appear to be cautious or unwilling to do what they are asking, they often become hostile and aggressive. In most situations, it is typically a good bet to trust your intuition. If your intuition is off, the worst that can happen is you ghosting someone you don’t know. However, if your intuition is right, you could save yourself from a lot of heartache, loss, and frustration.

If you believe you have been the victim of a Pig Butchering scam, reach out to your financial institution, law enforcement, and file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center as quickly as possible.

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