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What Is a Pig-Butchering Scam?

No actual pigs are harmed.

Pig-butchering is a nasty term for a particularly painful type of scam. Here's how to protect yourself.
The scene includes a metaphorical depiction of the scam process, showing a digital landscape with a piggy bank standing on one side, looking full and healthy, connected by a series of digital pathways and strings to a shadowy figure on the other side, who holds a butcher knife made of binary code, symbolizing the scammer preparing to 'butcher' the victim's savings. The background is a mix of digital and real elements, such as a cityscape blending into a circuit board, representing the intersection of technology and everyday life where these scams take place. Include symbols like chat bubbles, hearts, and dollar signs floating between the piggy bank and the shadowy figure to represent the building of trust, emotional manipulation, and financial transactions involved in the scam. The overall atmosphere should be ominous yet subtle, highlighting the deceptive and hidden dangers of online scams.
(Image: DALL-E 3)

It’s a distasteful name for a distasteful practice.

Pig-butchering scams are commonplace and seem to be increasing in frequency. I don’t want you to fall victim to it.

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Pig-butchering scams

Pig-butchering scams are long-term cons where scammers build trust over time before defrauding victims with significant financial loss. These scams have increased with technology’s use. Key red flags include moving conversations to private channels, refusal to meet, and requests for money, often under emotional pretense. Always be cautious with money, especially with people you’ve never met.

It’s a long con

A “long con” (long confidence) game or scam, as its name implies, takes place over a lengthy period of time. The scammers go to sometimes great lengths to build trust before finally scamming the unsuspecting victim.

It’s common for thousands of dollars to be lost.

Long cons aren’t anything new, but the widespread use of technology in its various forms has increased their frequency. In addition, the complexity of some technologies, coupled with our innate desire to be nice to people1, puts more and more people at risk every day.

The term’s relevance is simple: the scammers spend some time “fattening the pig” before “butchering” it as they run off with the money at the end of the scam.

Example: the romance scam

You sign up for a dating site. Eventually, you’re contacted by someone expressing an interest in getting to know more about you.

They suggest you move your conversation to somewhere more private — perhaps one of the more secure chat services hosted outside the dating platform.

They point you at their social media and perhaps other places where they and their work are visible for you to examine.

At some point, you’d like to meet in person, of course. They’re eager to do so, but their life is complicated, so scheduling something is difficult. You continue your online conversation and seem to be hitting it off! You really, really like one another.

But life keeps getting in the way of meeting.

Then, your wanna-be paramour has a life event of some sort: something they can’t afford. Could you possibly help them out? Of course! What else could you do? This could be The One, and you don’t want to disappoint them.

So you send them some money. Perhaps multiple times. Perhaps quite a bit of money. Until your suspicions are raised to a point where you start to object — at which point they ghost you. They — and your money — are gone.

Red flags

Writing it up like that makes it seem obvious, and yet it isn’t while it’s happening. Particularly when emotions are involved and time and effort have been invested, it’s difficult to admit to yourself that perhaps you’ve fallen for something.

In the scenario above, there are some red flags that should always raise concern.

  • Moving to private channels. They’ll say it’s for your security while in reality, it’s for the scammer’s. It removes them from whatever platform or technique they’re using to ensnare their victims, which are typically easier to track and trace.
  • Never being able to meet in person. Life can be busy, but never that busy if someone’s truly interested in a real relationship.
  • Unexpected expenses. They usually start small — something simple — but as your confidence and investment in the relationship grows, requests begin to increase. They often rely on a heavy dose of guilt should you begin to object.

There are other red flags that aren’t included above, of course. Any mention of cryptocurrency or gift cards is of concern; and relationships that begin when a person completely unknown to you shows up out of the blue should also be seen as suspect (i.e., an unknown person begins texting, emailing, or using social media platforms to contact you).2

Do this

It’s more than romance, of course. The scenario above is just an example. These types of long cons come in a variety of situations designed to take advantage of the unsuspecting.

If there’s one specific takeaway, I would have it be this: Always be extremely cautious when giving money to someone you’ve never met.

If that breaks up a potential romance, it was never meant to be anyway.

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Footnotes & References

1: Well, mostly.

2: I report and block all unexpected texts from people I don’t recognize as well as all political texts regardless of their source.

20 comments on “What Is a Pig-Butchering Scam?”

  1. I get a lot of comments from women on Facebook who praise my posts and want me to send them a friend request. Or I get friend requests from people I don’t know. They are always some kind of scam. I mark those comments as spam and report people who send fake friend requests. Those are potential long cons.

  2. Re: “If there’s one specific takeaway, it (sic) would have it be this: Always be extremely cautious when giving money to someone you’ve never met.”
    How about, “Never give money to someone you’ve never met.”?

  3. When it comes to social media, I’m always cautious/suspicious about friend requests from anyone I don’t already know, even if we have one or more mutual friends. I friend people and family members I know in the real world, so we can keep in touch more easily. I don’t use social media to meet new people, I use it to maintain contact with those I care about and with whom I share common interests. Friends of friends don’t usually meet that criteria, and when they do, we become mutual friends aside from our common/shared friendships.

    My approach to social media is probably an exercise in skepticism as well as being unique, but it may also serve to keep me safer from long-term scams than a more trusting approach.


    Ernie (Oldster)

  4. Ernie, I (another oldster) am not on social media, but your cautions seem to be right on the money for those who are.



  5. I heard a new scam today. Someone called about delivering a package. They wanted an address and other information to prove it was for the recipient. They asked for the credit card used to make the purchase! Additionally, I remind people when called from an unknown number and asked if was , never reply YES. Scammers have recorded the answer and placed a charge against the recipient. The proof that the recipient made the order was the word YES patched into a faked conversation.

  6. I was told the term was originally coined on Chinese social media. The scam was particularly bad among older men looking for companionship online, though it didn’t remain a problem specific to the Chinese internet, sad to say.

  7. At one point i would say speaking when asked my name. Now I don’t answer the phone, let answer machine or mail box take it. Most of the time no message.

  8. Pig Butchering, is a cruel and pernicious scam that preys on the emotions of lonely older men to get their money. A particularly evil form of the scam is to feign falling in love with the victim,”fate brought us together” and convince the victim that they just want to share a lucrative investment with him. They, the woman and an “aunt” who impersonates a famous investment guru, lead you to a lucrative cryptocurrency investment to “fatten you up” and gain your confidence. The aunt then offers you an opportunity with profits even greater that you “can’t afford not to do.” She leads you to put money into a trading exchange that trades in high risk futures and spoon-feeds you trades supposedly researched by experts. They are all successful and multiply your profits 5x. Then you reach a point that she says you need to put even more money in for a great opportunity, which she knows is beyond your means, so she tells you it is time to take your money out and go home. The only problem is that the trading exchange trumps up a story that your trades were suspicious and you must pay 35% of the account value as a “risk premium” to ransom your funds. As it turns out, the trades were all faked anyway and they just try to extort more deposits from you. They keep coming at you until you give up and they walk away with all your money and the fake trading website platform disappears. The victim is fully butchered, his heart cut out, his bank account drained, and slinks away ashamed and demoralized. It is a form of murder.


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