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Cybercriminals Selling Pre-Packaged Pig-Butchering Kits to Scam Victims, Warn Authorities

Once entangled, victims are manipulated into relinquishing their digital assets.
Cover Image Source: Cyber Scams | Photo by Sora Shimazaki | Pexels
Cover Image Source: Cyber Scams | Photo by Sora Shimazaki | Pexels

In the world of the dark web, a disturbing trend of online deception is thriving. Cybercriminals have devised a new type of scam known as the "pig-butchering" scheme, aimed at exploiting unsuspecting individuals globally. Recent findings reveal a concerning surge in this illicit activity. Originating from China and gaining traction during the pandemic, pig-butchering scams target individuals seeking companionship on dating apps or social media platforms.

Image Source: Pexels/Tero Vesalainen
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Tero Vesalainen

Fraudsters adeptly employ tactics of flattery and emotional manipulation to cultivate trust before enticing victims into fraudulent cryptocurrency ventures. Once entangled, victims are manipulated into relinquishing their digital assets, often leading to severe financial repercussions.

The term "pig butchering" aptly describes the insidious process of fattening victims with false promises before leading them to financial slaughter. "It gets people where they’re the most vulnerable because they’re trying to reach out to, to have contact with another human being," said Sean Gallagher, principal threat researcher at Sophos.

The latest iteration of this scam, known as "DeFi savings," leverages the demand for decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms and cryptocurrency apps to lure victims. Unlike traditional pig-butchering techniques, which relied on custom mobile apps or wired deposits, DeFi savings scams streamline the process, making it more accessible to a broader pool of fraudsters.

Image Source: Cryptocurrency | Pexels

These scam kits include web pages capable of accessing victims' crypto wallets via the Ethereum blockchain, enabling fraudsters to siphon funds effortlessly. Moreover, many of these pages feature integrated chat functionalities, allowing scammers to pose as technical support to further deceive their victims.

The commodification of these scam kits has democratized fraud, attracting criminals from diverse backgrounds. While once predominantly associated with Chinese-language crime rings in Southeast Asia, pig-butchering schemes are now cropping up in regions like Thailand and West Africa.

Gallagher warns that the proliferation of DeFi scams represents the fastest-growing segment within the pig-butchering realm. These scams exceed technical barriers, making them particularly appealing to novice fraudsters. In one case study, a DeFi ring raked in a staggering $3 million over three months, showcasing the lucrative nature of these schemes.

Computer hacker silhouette. Green binary code background | Getty Images | Photo by Bill Hilton
Image Source: Computer hacker's silhouette | Getty Images | Photo by Bill Hilton

However, the ordeal doesn't end once victims' wallets are emptied. Scammers employ persistent tactics, urging victims to send money under the guise of recovering lost assets. They utilize various platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram, to maintain contact with victims even after the victim attempts to sever ties.

The use of generative AI, exemplified by platforms like ChatGPT, further adds to the deception by generating convincing messages to re-engage victims. "They use ChatGPT to create a text message saying: 'Why did you cut off contact with me? I miss you. I love you. Please come back,'" Gallagher said.

Image Source: Pexels/Budgeron Bach
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Budgeron Bach

The rise in underground markets peddling pig-butchering scam kits represents a significant threat to individuals on the internet. As cybercriminals continue to innovate and adapt their tactics, users must exercise caution and remain vigilant against potential scams. By raising awareness and fostering digital literacy, we can collectively mitigate the risks posed by these insidious schemes and safeguard against financial exploitation.