- Industrial scale ‘pig butchering’ scam targets UK and international investors
- Ruthless and brutal fraudsters are targeting those who wouldn’t normally be expected to fall for scams
- Authorities struggling to implement action to halt the rise of ‘slow-burn’ scams
More than 150 fake firms have been set up to target UK investors in ‘pig butchering’ scams – victims have lost everything, and some have taken their own lives.
The methodology of pig butchering scams makes it particularly effective, and the emotional turmoil associated with it is extreme. As part of an orchestrated campaign, Chinese scammers are targeting traders across the world, and no one is safe. The scam appears to catch those who might not fall foul of other fraudulent schemes.
What is Pig Butchering?
Pig butchering is as bad as it sounds. The Chinese term ‘sha zhu pan’ refers to the process where the scammer builds a relationship with their victim with the intention to defraud them. In a similar way to farmers and livestock, scammers build a long-term relationship with their victims and fatten them up over time.
The initial ‘hook’ tends to be a romantic relationship. It’s a slow burn. There is mention of the new partner having made substantial returns on investments, often crypto, but no hard-sell. Trust is built up, and as the relationship grows so does the victim’s curiosity.
Early investments in an apparently legitimate investment scheme appear to make the kind of profits that the scammers suggest are possible. More is invested, and then, once victims are ‘all in’, the scam is revealed, and all is lost.
Pig butchering scams follow a traditional path, but the scale of new operations is alarming. The companies set up to receive funds claim a degree of credibility by being listed in the victim’s home country. In the UK, it’s estimated that approximately 168 fake companies have been set up. The shell companies often use ‘dead-letter-boxes’ or even the addresses of unsuspecting individuals.
The scam victims are targeted by ‘romantic interests’, with the net being cast on an industrial scale. A 2022 report by investigators at ProPublica established those Cambodian women, lured by fake job ads, are being transported to work in “scam workshops” in China. If they try to resist, these women can experience food deprivation or beatings, the report claimed. Reports suggest that other victims of the scheme have taken their own lives to escape their predicament.
Age-old guidelines can offer some protection against the pig butchering scam. Never send money to an account which has not been fully checked or verified or where you don’t have complete control of funds. But the romantic angle of the scam blurs those lines all too effectively. The list of UK victims includes an ex-police officer who lost £100,000 to a ‘woman’ he met on the internet.
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