The FBI says America has a “pig killer” problem. And the cost of victims is millions of dollars.
“We don’t talk about what’s happening on the farm,” said Frank Fisher, a public affairs specialist in the bureau’s Albuquerque division. “We are talking about a cryptocurrency investment scam that swept the country.”
The term pig slaughter refers to unsuspecting victims – “pigs” – tricked by scammers into withdrawing money for a high rate of return.
Scammers are “sucking pigs by making victims think they’re investing and getting money into cryptocurrencies,” said Santa Clara County, California, district attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office is managing the multi-agency task force. fight technology-related crimes.
After the criminals “fatten up” the victims’ digital wallet, they steal the money, Rosen said.
Pork operations usually start with a basic approach, Rosen told CNN: Scammers blast millions of unwanted messages a day to unsuspecting victims via text messages and social media, often with rude notes like, “Hi, how are you? ”
Scammers operating under false identities build relationships with victims, sometimes for just a few weeks, before suggesting victims “invest” in cryptocurrency.
One technique involves assuring the victim that the scammer has made a significant profit in cryptocurrency, persuading the victim not to miss out on the benefits of cryptocurrency investment.
Those who fall for the scam are persuaded to send more money, and are even given fictitious financial statements that make the investment look like a huge profit.
“This is where ‘fattening up the pig’ comes in,” Rosen said. Eventually, “you get a little suspicious. You try to contact the person who contacted you online and ask for your money back. [But] that person has scared you.”
Rosen said the holiday season is a lucrative time for scammers because they often prey on people who feel lonely.
And while the initial approach was uncomplicated, Rosen said the actual fraud operations investigated by the team — which mostly operate overseas including in Cambodia and China — involved sophisticated methods.
“They have been trained by psychologists to try to figure out the best way to deceive people,” he said. “You’re dealing with people who will use different psychological techniques to make you vulnerable and make you want to part with your money.”
Experts say awareness and basic diligence are key to protecting yourself from online predators.
“Be very careful when you go on social media and dating apps and someone starts a relationship with you, and wants you to start investing,” Fisher told the FBI. “Don’t kill him.”
As shoppers spend billions online this holiday season, the FBI says there has also been an increase in fraud linked to mega-retailer Amazon. “Online criminals are only limited by their imagination, and they have an impeccable sense of timing,” said Fisher.
In one type of scam, “someone calls you and claims to be from Amazon or another wholesale distributor, and says there’s a problem with your credit card,” Fisher said. The scammer then asks for a new credit card number.
Another variation of the Amazon scam involves a criminal calling potential victims and showing them that a suspicious purchase has been flagged on the user’s account, resulting in the suspension of purchase privileges. The victim is asked to make a payment via credit card and then restore the account.
“Sometimes, they even threaten to report you to law enforcement about your purchase,” Fisher said. “One dead ringer. Don’t let this fool you.”
Amazon’s security team advises consumers that the company will not ask customers for personal information, and users should not respond to emails requesting account data or identifiable details.
The company said in a statement that it had worked to remove thousands of online phishing websites and phone numbers linked to impersonation scams, and referred suspected scammers to law enforcement agencies around the world.
“Scammers who try to impersonate Amazon put consumers at risk,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president for Selling Partner Services. “Even if the fraud occurs outside of the store, we will continue to invest in protecting consumers and educating the public on how to prevent fraud.”
The FBI says another type of scam that is on the rise this holiday season is mostly aimed at defrauding senior citizens. “Scammers tend to focus on older people because they know they’re gullible, and they know older Americans typically have more money,” Fisher said.
In so-called sweepstakes scams, victims are contacted and congratulated on winning a sweepstakes prize, but are told they must send money first to cover taxes and processing fees that can be exorbitant.
“Legitimate sweepstakes will never take place,” Fisher said. “They won’t make you pay up front to collect the money.”
There were about 60 lottery fraud victims in New Mexico last year alone who lost a collective $1 million, he said.
The FBI recommends people check with older relatives and friends about their online habits and whether they could be targets of cybercriminals.
“If someone approaches them and wants to be friends and build a relationship,” Fisher said, “ask questions.”