Silicon Valley internet romantics are becoming victims to what some are calling a wave of “pig slaughtering” crypto scams via dating apps.
One victim is quoted saying, “I never thought it could happen to me because I use tech. I’ve written software.”
One investigator who worked for a cybersecurity company called Sift discovered that one in twenty of the people who approached her on dating apps in San Francisco were in on the scam.
The term “pig slaughtering” or “butchering” is a version of grooming where a nefarious person will make a fake account and adopt a fake persona with the goal of developing a relationship with a person via the internet so that they can take advantage of them, usually for financial gain. The term “pig slaughtering” comes from the idea that the nefarious person is “fattening up” their victim by investing time into the fake relationship in order to gain trust. The scammer’s goal is to have the victim invest in crypto via a duplicated version of a legitimate website, or by transferring funds to a scam wallet address.
Scammers usually use encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, social media, and more recently dating apps, as a means to find victims. There is usually long dedicated months of grooming that happen where the person will make themselves seem as real as possible but will usually never meet the person in real life.
A June 2 report from the San Francisco Examiner detailed the accounts of two relatively tech-savvy individuals, referred to as Cy and R for anonymity purposes, who lost a combined $2.5 million to the scam. Both are now members of an online support group hosted by the Global Anti Scam Organization that sees “at least two or three new members” every week.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that such cases are part of “a rising trend” in the local area.
The FBI sent out a general warning over crypto-romance scams and pig slaughtering in April, noting that its Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 4,300 complaints in 2021 resulting in more than $429 million in losses. It stated the scam first originated in China in late 2019 but has since become more prevalent in the U.S.
R’s case in particular is notable as she is an IT manager from the Bay Area who lost around $1.3 million to the scam after first being approached via LinkedIn.
Despite being well versed in computer tech, R stated that the scammer’s professional profile managed to win her trust by being listed as an alumnus of the same top tech university that she graduated from in China.
After the conversation moved over to WhatsApp, the scammer worked for a month before finally persuading R to invest in crypto via a dubious website that swiped her funds.
“I never thought it could happen to me because I use tech. I’ve written software.”
Cy, a real estate analyst lost $1.2 million over two months and ended up in psychiatric care after suffering suicidal thoughts.
“I lost more than just money. I lost my self-confidence,” said Cy. “I have ruined my family’s lives.”
The Global Anti-Scam Organization believes Silicon Valley workers are increasingly falling victim to these scams due to overconfidence in tech-savviness, loneliness as a result of the pandemic, and an interest in gaining crypto exposure.