The US government seized seven domain names used in so-called “pig butchering” scams that netted criminals more than $10 million.
Pig butchering is a newish twist on romance scams in which fraudsters build a relationship with their victims and then con them into transferring money into accounts controlled by the crooks. In these cases, however, the fraudsters convince their marks to “invest” in cryptocurrency via phony websites, and then once the transfer goes through, the crooks disappear with all of the victim’s money.
While the court documents remain sealed, we’re told that fraudsters tricked five victims in the US between May and August into transferring their money to the seven now-seized domains designed to look like the Singapore International Monetary Exchange.
As with all online romance scams, the criminals typically target their victims using dating apps or social media websites. Once the victims transfer their money into the deposit addresses, the miscreants move the funds through private wallets and swapping services to make the money near impossible to trace.
In total, five victims lost more than $10 million, according to the Justice Department.
The pig butchering domain seizures come about a month after the Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging 11 residents in New York and New Jersey with money laundering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, bank fraud conspiracy, passport fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, among other offenses, for their alleged roles in a pig butchering investment scheme.
The defendants were arrested and arraigned on October 13 after allegedly stealing $18 million from more than 200 victims across the US.
“For once the name of a scam — pig butchering — reflects the grotesque nature of the harm it causes victims,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll said in a statement. “We allege these fraudsters bled dry each of their victims and then used the money to set up fake cryptocurrency accounts.”
Also in October, the FBI issued a warning about these cryptocurrency investment schemes, and urged victims of pig butchering scams to file a report with the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
“Many victims report being directed to make wire transfers to overseas accounts or purchase large amounts of prepaid cards,” according to the alert. “The use of cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency ATMs is also an emerging method of payment. Individual losses related to these schemes ranged from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.” ®