The U.S. Department of Justice has seized seven websites used by fraudsters to perpetrate a cryptocurrency scam known as “pig butchering.”
Pig butchering is an increasingly popular confidence trick scammers are using to steal cryptocurrencies. Con artists will reach out to potential victims via dating apps, social media websites, or even random text messages.
Upon developing a relationship with the victims, fraudsters then convince them to make an investment in cryptocurrency. After making a sequence of investments, victims are subsequently blocked by the perpetrators who abscond with the stolen funds.
Losses Reach $10m, Scam Sites Seized
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia reportedly seized seven domain names associated with the scam. Between May and Aug. 2022, scammers managed to induce five victims into depositing cryptocurrencies into sites they believed to be the Singapore International Monetary Exchange. The victims’ losses amounted to a total of $10 million.
Unfortunately, these domains had been effectively “spoofed” by the fraudsters, making them appear to be a legitimate entity. After victims deposited their crypto through the sites, the assets were immediately transferred to various wallets controlled by the scammers.
In many cases, these sites are also sophisticated enough to allow victims to supposedly track their funds. The sites will often show victims a healthy return on their investment, enticing them to deposit even more crypto.
Warnings of income tax payments or additional fees would also prevent victims from trying to withdraw any of their capital.
FBI Received More Than 4,000 Complaints
According to the FBI, pig butchering started in China in 2019, but has become increasingly common in the West. Much of the AUD $242 million lost to crypto scams in Australia this year occurred through pig butchering schemes.
Meanwhile, the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 4,300 complaints related to pig butchering schemes last year. These losses amounted to over $429 million.
Federal authorities have offered some protective advice and warned potential victims to be aware of particular suspicious activity. For instance, they should never send money to anyone they have not met in person. Even in that case, they should verify the identity of these individuals, particularly if they proffer investment opportunities.
Additionally, potential victims should remain skeptical of these opportunities, especially if they claim to offer significant returns. They should also be vigilant against depositing any funds on fraudulent websites or exchanges. Many of these go to great lengths to seem like legitimate institutions but often have minor deviations from the original.
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