From Trust to Bust: The Pig Butchering Playbook

R.O.S.E., Resources/Outreach to Safeguard the Elderly

Pig butchering is a term that invokes horrendous images. In this case, however, it’s a term for a sinister scam that has become alarmingly prevalent in recent years. This scam, which originated in China during the pandemic, involves cybercriminals who “fatten up” their victims before slaughtering them, much like the process of preparing a pig for butchering.

What makes it even worse is that victims themselves often perpetrate the scam. The leaders of these criminal organizations recruit unknowing victims to carry out the scamsoffering them lucrative jobs in a foreign country. Then, once on site, they confiscate their passports and force them to work on these scamseffectively engaging in human trafficking.

The scam starts with these cybercriminals initiating contact with their intended victims. They begin by posing as potential romantic connections on dating apps, friends on social media platforms, or through a rather benign-looking text message.

For example, you probably received a text from an unknown number saying, “Hello,” or “Sorry, but I have to cancel our lunch meeting.” Don’t be fooledand definitely, don’t engage! Unfortunately, many people will respond by saying that they have the wrong person. When they do, the hook is set, and the scam begins.

The scammer “grooms” their targetinvesting significant time and effort into building a rapport. They will develop trust and emotional investment. This phase can last for weeks or even months, during which the scammers subtly gather information about their targets’ financial situations and vulnerabilities.

Once the trust is solidified, the scammer introduces their target to what appears to be a lucrative investment opportunity. They often direct the victim to sophisticated, legitimate-looking websites or apps that are, in reality, elaborate fronts for the scam. These platforms might initially allow the target to make small profits, further enhancing the illusion of legitimacy and encouraging more significant investments.

As the target continues investing more money, the scammers make their move. At a predetermined point, the target is unable to withdraw their funds. The scammers may disappear entirely, or they may provide convoluted excuses and demand additional payments to release the funds, which never happens.

The emotional and financial devastation left in the wake of a pig butchering scam can be profound. People often lose their life savings and suffer severe psychological distress from the betrayal.

Awareness and education are crucial in combating pig butchering scams. You must remain vigilant, skeptical of too-good-to-be-true investment opportunities, and cautious in your online interactions. Understanding the hallmarks of such scams can help you protect yourself from falling prey to these ruthless schemes.

R.O.S.E. seeks to create change by educating and providing awareness of financial scams that typically target the older adult population, with a focus on those age 60 and over. For more information, resources, sign up for our newsletter, find our social media links, and subscribe to our Let’s Talk About Scams podcast, visit, email us at [email protected], or call us at 602-445-7673.