Early 2020 saw the rise of a new and grizzly scam from Southeast Asia, aptly named “pig-butchering.” It was targeting job-seekers and desperate victims.
Unfortunately, this scam has claimed thousands of victims already and shows no sign of stopping. Any one of us could still become a victim of this scam.
In this article, we’ll dive into the specifics around pig-butchering, how to spot it, and how to ensure you aren’t in danger.
Pig-butchering and slavery scams: the origins
In recent decades, Sihanoukville, once a calm, sand-swept Cambodian village, has received millions of dollars from Chinese investors. Eventually, it transformed a small town into a den for gambling and prostitution.
In 2019, China pressured Cambodia to ban online gambling for Chinese citizens. Along with COVID-19, this caused rapid losses in tourism and investments, leaving the township jobless. Rotting casinos, some owned by the Chinese Mafia, were then turned into multi-story scamming facilities packed with international slaves.
That’s how the pig-butchering began.
This scam is a psychological game in which scammers are taught to manipulate your emotions. Through friendship, romance, or other tricks, these forced workers defrauded international victims of millions of dollars.
Somewhere in Cambodia, tens of thousands of these enslaved individuals spent day after day orchestrating pig-butchering scams for their captors. But there was one thing most of these poor victims had in common — they came willingly.
Sporadically, individuals and groups trapped in scam centers have escaped. Some, like Lu Xiangri, have dedicated their lives to rescuing other victims, having witnessed the violence that occurs. Sadly, many thousands of slaves are still trapped, moving from center to center until they pay off their ever-increasing ransom.
The signs of the pig-butchering slavery scam
Individuals from across Asia were the first to be scammed and enslaved. However, the slave traders quickly moved to target Westerners. Thousands of victims were drawn in with the following method:
- First, the target would receive a lucrative job offer via Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.;
- The offer includes unbelievable perks, paid flights, and hotel rooms;
- On arrival at the airport, chauffeurs are waiting to escort the victim;
- Once in the car/van, victims’ passports and other items are stolen, and they’re transported to a secured and heavily guarded compound;
- Offering fake “wages,” captors incentivize victims with the promise of freedom if they perform well with their scams.
What was an actual scam?
This scam gets its namesake from the act of fattening livestock before slaughter. The actual scam is not far off it either — enslaved scammers had to befriend victims online and share “secret” profitable crypto tips.
Victims who were new to crypto and desperate for money were the prime targets. After one or two “successful” returns on investments, the scammers drained the victim for as much cryptocurrency as they could get.
How you can mitigate a pig-butchering scam
As shocking and cruel as this scam is, it wouldn’t have succeeded as it did without the deadly combination of job loss, withdrawn investments, and mafia-run gambling institutions. However, slavery and pig-butchering scams are easy to spot and avoid.
Stranger danger is just as important online
For some reason, we’re much more trusting when we chat with strangers online. Not so long ago were the days of dumping your trauma on an anonymous bartender. The same principle powers this scam — scammers gain your trust to find weaknesses and trauma.
They often pretend to be going through the same trauma to make you feel sympathetic. From there, influencing you in the future becomes easier, as you naturally want to reciprocate the actions and feelings of those you trust.
You should be careful on the internet either way, but as a rule, don’t assume the people you come across online are truthful. Share sensitive personal information only with close, real-life friends, as pig-butchering scams rely on these online friendships.
Data privacy is king
A major tenet of cyber hygiene is personal data privacy. Sending money to anonymous scammers is one thing, but leaked login data, addresses, and emails is also a threat in the hands of criminals.
If a victim is considered a ripe target, the scammers will use every trick in the book to steal more and more funds. With unpredictable criminals, data privacy ensures you can’t be hacked, harassed, or blackmailed.
Are you at risk?
No one wants to be at the receiving end of a scam like pig-butchering, but for once, the scammer is a victim too.
As “slaves” have escaped, it’s clear that anyone can and will be targeted for these pig-butchering scams.
Spread the word about the red flags listed above to protect your loved ones from pig-butchering scams and others alike it.