What is pork butchery? A crypto-romance scam that cost a woman $8 million
As a victim of a new kind of fast-growing crypto romance scheme called âpig butcherâ, Divya (who asked to keep her last name a secret) has plenty of company. According to the FBI, more than 20,000 people in the United States have been victims of romance fraud and have lost nearly $1 billion last year. But Divya may unfortunately hold the record for the biggest loser in this growing scam.
Authorities say the average loss per victim of the scheme is around $180,000, but Divya, according to a lawsuit filed against an alleged pork butcher, saw more than $8 million in cryptocurrency disappear into the fraudulent vacuum. .
âI’m generally a pretty sensitive person,â says Divya. “I’m very generous, I like to volunteer. I’m not just going to give money blindly.”
The term âpig butcherâ comes from the Chinese âShÄzhÅ«pÃ¡nâ (æ®ºè±¬ç¤), as the diet apparently originated in China. The scammer – and he’s almost always a man – builds a months or weeks long romantic relationship with the victim through online dating platforms such as Tinder, Grindr and Bumble. According to Divya’s lawsuit, “the abuser floods the victim with messages of love and affection to ‘fatten’ her up emotionally – like fattening a pig…before tricking the victim into investing in a fake [crypto] company and, metaphorically, slaughter the victim. This massacre usually involves the victim investing real money in fake crypto investments.
Victims of pig slaughter
The fact that the thieves managed to swindle Divya, an educated businesswoman in her twenties, speaks to the insidious nature of the plot and her highly organized and sophisticated methods. In fact, statistics show that 67% of the victims are single women between the ages of 25 and 40, and most were highly educated and mastered with modern technology.
âA common factor among victims may simply be their lack of knowledge of how regulated brokers should operateâ and having âsignificant savings,â according to the Global Anti-Scam Organization, a nonprofit advocacy group for victims of fraud. the pig butcher.
And there are many victims.
Cynthia, a young Asian woman in Canada, says she lost all her life savings to a pig butcher. “I never thought that in a million years I would be scammed, especially via online dating,” she posted on Youtube. “But hey, shit happens, and I try my best not to blame myself or fall into a perpetual spiral of self-loathing.”
A woman from Los Angeles who goes by the name velvet cat, says she lost thousands to the scam. âScammers claim to be attractive and rich, always too busy to see you, have an excuse not to video call you, text daily, pretend to teach you crypto with a fake app they link you to,â she wrote.
Cindy Tsai, a Boston-area woman who was being treated for terminal cancer, says she met “Jimmy,” a local Asian American single on a dating app that comforted her throughout her life. treatments, but then stolen $2.4 million in crypto investments.
Denver software engineer Steve Belcher says he lost $1.6 million after falling in love with a woman on a dating app.
PJ Jenkins, a retired police officer from New Jersey lost $15,000 to “Alice” a scammer he met on Hinge and began a relationship of months before investing in cryptocurrency.
Divya met “Jerry Bulasa” on Tinder and started communicating frequently on WhatsApp, according to her lawsuit against three people, two banks and two crypto platforms. “Bulasa sparked and built what appeared to be a deep affection and interest in each other,” according to the lawsuit.
As with almost every other scheme, as the online relationship grew, Bulasa tricked her into transferring money to a seemingly legitimate crypto platform with promises of financial gain through cryptocurrency investments.
“At first I was like, ‘hey man, I don’t know you. I’m not sending you my money. And he said that’s fine, just send it to the platform where I had my own account,â she said.
Divya, who had some experience trading with Coinbase, researched the site and Bulasa’s suggested investment method, and it all seemed legit.
âWe had romance scams all the time. These are old. But in the digital world, love and crypto are a match made in scam heaven and that just creates a whole other avenue.
âAt first, when I was doing my research, I wondered if you could actually trade Bitcoin options,â she said. âAnd yes, you really can. And I’ve actually traded Forex, so I figured I’ve done this before, so it doesn’t sound that fishy.
Divya was directed to an app and website where she could track the performance of her investments and the scammers seemed to match or add their own money which would appear on the sites. And it showed she was making impressive gains. The problem, however, first surfaced when she attempted to withdraw funds.
“What happened, and it’s something common with people who are into this same kind of scam, is that the trading platform will tell you that you first have to pay taxes on your earnings,â she said. âAnd that’s how they took the rest of the money from me. Not by telling me to invest more, but simply by paying what is necessary to get the money out.
“And it was kind of an emotional torment. They kept telling me I was going to be fine, but they kept hitting me with more and more fees and taxes. They knew I was starting to scared, but they kept telling me “don’t worry, you’ll get your money”.
At that time, she said, she was communicating primarily with the platform, not the supposed lover.
How law enforcement is trying to catch up
The scam started in mainland China possibly in 2019, according to the Global Ant Scam Organization, but later moved to areas off Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos, where governments tend to look the other way.
“Local governments are complicit in these scams because they bring in a lot of money,” said GASO representative Grace Yuen. âThere are big bosses there who we think are cronies with local governments and they have big buildings, basically dormitories, full of Chinese nationals. They look like call centers involved in e-commerce.
Yuen says workers at these compounds have their passports seized and work their way home. They are given fake but realistic social media profiles which they use to lure victims.
Catching them is made difficult for US authorities because the scammers are almost always based overseas and disguise their identities and internet accounts. It doesn’t help that they deal in cryptocurrency, which can be traded anonymously.
Meanwhile, trying to shut down a fraudulent crypto platform can feel like playing Whack-a-Mole.
âThe problem is that when we shut down a website, they just created a new one,â said Miles Faggert, a special agent with the Alabama Securities Commission, who has just tried to legally shut down several platforms. -forms of cryptography operating in the State.
Although the state has only received three butchery complaints, it has formed a task force expecting more, “But I think the cure is going to let the public know what’s going on so they don’t Don’t fall victim to it.. It will be easier than shutting down the websites.
Law enforcement is also admittedly new to the territory and the learning curve is huge.
“No one could conceive of cryptocurrency just a few years ago,” said Amanda W. Senn, chief deputy director of the Alabama Securities Commission. âWe had romance scams all the time. These are old. But in the digital world, love and crypto are a match made in scam heaven and that just creates a whole other avenue.
The US Department of Justice says it has formed a task force on cryptocurrency scams, but that’s just getting started. The government has yet to enact regulatory standards, so for now it is up to individual states to enforce crimes. Victims say their complaints are often met with blank stares because local authorities don’t understand the new jargon and technology.
The legitimate companies involved, like Coinbase and Tether, leave it up to individuals to determine who they do business with.
So at least for now, stopping scams can be difficult, and the best approach is to stay vigilant. Divya says she turned to legit cryptocurrency tracking companies and learned to look up blockchain wallet addresses and thinks she tracked her money. But getting it back is another matter.
“I want people to know what happened to me,” she said. “But I don’t want that to happen to them.”
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