Beware of the ‘Pig Slaughter’ Cryptocurrency Scam Sweeping America | CNN Business

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The FBI says America has a “pig slaughter” problem. It costs the victims millions of dollars.

“We don’t talk about what happens on farms,” ​​said Frank Fisher, a public affairs specialist in the bureau’s Albuquerque division. “We are talking about a cryptocurrency investment scam sweeping the country.”

The term pig slaughter refers to an unsuspecting victim – “the pig” – who is tricked by scammers into inflating money in return for a promised high rate of return.

says Jeff Rosen, the district attorney in Santa Clara County, Calif., whose office runs a multi-agency technology-related crime task force.

Once criminals “fatten up” their victims’ digital wallets, Rosen says, they steal the money.

Pig slaughters usually begin with a crude approach, Rosen tells CNN: Fraudsters post millions of spam messages each day to unsuspecting victims via text and social media, often with an innocuous remark like, “Hey, how are you?”

The scammer operating under a false identity builds a relationship with the victim, sometimes over a period of just a few weeks, before suggesting the victim “invest” in cryptocurrency.

One technique involves reassuring the victim that the scammer has made significant profits in cryptocurrency, and convincing the victim that they should not miss out on the benefits of cryptocurrency investments.

Those who fall for the scam are persuaded to send more and more money, and even provided with fictitious financial statements that make it look like their investment has yielded a huge return.

This is where the ‘fattening the pig’ comes in,” Rosen says. Eventually, “you become a little paranoid. Try contacting the person who contacted you online and ask them for your money back. [But] This person ghosted you.”

The holiday season is an especially profitable time for scammers, Rosen says, because they often prey on people who might be feeling lonely.

And while the initial approach is uncomplicated, Rosen says the actual scams his team investigated — which typically operate abroad including in Cambodia and China — involve very sophisticated methods.

“They were trained by psychologists to try to figure out the best way to manipulate people,” he says. “You are dealing with people who will use various psychological techniques to make you vulnerable and to make you interested in parting with your money.”

Experts say basic awareness and diligence are key to protecting against online predators.

“Be very careful when you’re on social media and dating apps and someone starts developing a relationship with you, and they want you to start investing,” says the FBI’s Fisher. “Don’t slaughter.”

As shoppers spend billions online this holiday season, the FBI says it has also seen a rise in scams involving retail giant Amazon. “Cybercriminals’ scams are only limited by their imagination, and they have an impeccable sense of timing,” says Fisher.

In one type of fraud, “someone calls you and claims to be from Amazon or another wholesale distributor, and they say there’s a problem with your credit card,” Fisher adds. Then the scammer requests a new credit card number.

Another type of Amazon scam involves a criminal calling a potential victim and indicating that a suspicious purchase has been reported on the user’s account, resulting in the suspension of purchase privileges. The victim is asked to make the payment by credit card directly and then to re-account.

“Sometimes, they will threaten to report you to law enforcement in connection with your purchase,” says Fisher. “Another dead bell. Don’t fall for this scam.”

Amazon’s security team advises consumers that the company will never ask any customer for personal information, and users should not respond to emails asking for account data or personally identifiable details.

The company said in a statement that it has worked to remove thousands of online phishing websites and phone numbers associated with impersonation scams, and has referred suspected scammers to law enforcement agencies around the world.

“Scammers who try to impersonate Amazon are putting consumers at risk,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President of Selling Partner Services at Amazon. “While these scams occur outside of our store, we will continue to invest in protecting consumers and educating the public on how to avoid scams.”

The FBI says other types of scams that are on the rise this holiday season are largely aimed at defrauding senior citizens. “Scammers tend to focus on older people because they know they can trust them, and they know that older Americans usually have more money,” says Fisher.

In so-called lottery scams, victims are contacted and congratulated on winning a lottery prize, but are told that they must first send money to cover taxes and processing fees, which can be prohibitive.

“Legitimate lotteries won’t do that,” says Fisher. “They won’t make you prepay to collect your money.”

There were nearly 60 victims of a fake sweepstakes in New Mexico alone last year and their total losses totaled $1 million, he says.

The FBI suggests that people check in with elderly relatives and friends about their online habits and whether they have been targeted by cybercriminals.

“If someone approaches them and wants to be friends with them and develop a relationship, ask questions,” says Fisher.

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