Pig butchering is a globally rampant problem that’s only getting worse. Never assume you’re too smart to fall for a text scam.
What are pig butchering scams, and how do they work?
The AI-driven spam-blocking app RealCall warns that “pig butchering” scams in text messages are gaining momentum. The trend originated in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Laos. Then the scams grew exponentially this year and swept the United States like a plague of locusts. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, $429 million was lost because of such scams in 2021. The situation is expected to get worse in 2022.
Pig butchering scams always start with a “random wrong number” text message.
- Hey Ken Jacob, remember me? It’s been a long time since our last charity gala ended!
- Gibson, can you tell me how your handmade meatballs are made? It is so delicious.
- Lambert, my puppy is very slow-moving and won’t eat dog food. Can you make an appointment for me?
- Patrick, you’ve really crossed the line. I’m Flavia. Beverley told me everything!
- Hi Keith, this is my business number. We will meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Half Moon Bay Golf Course to discuss the partnership.
Get a text from the wrong number? It could be an attempt at pig butchering. Those messages aim to lure you into replying to them and set a trap for you step by step.
They would pretend to apologize sincerely, saying they sent the wrong message, and find the right opportunity to establish a “predestined” relationship with the victim—acquaintance is fate. They have skillful tactics to groom and gain an individual’s trust—generally over weeks or months. They play on the victims’ loneliness, sympathy, or general cluelessness to lure them into some fraud. The cryptocurrency would be brought up as a conversation topic, and finally, with specific instructions on how to invest, which typically results in them being scammed out of a bunch of money.
Pig butchering means fattening up a pig before slaughter. “It’s a slow scam. They first gain your trust. They let you withdraw some funds to feel confident and then slowly take them from you until you have nothing left,” revealed a 22-year-old girl on Reddit who was a victim of pig butchering.
Elden, a senior data analyst at RealCall, said, “Not all the victims are of low education. A considerable proportion is quite sophisticated and well-educated.” What is surprising is that even Silicon Valley, with high-tech talents gathering, has become a severe disaster area cheated by this wave of pig butchering. ABC7News reported that a Bay Area man lost $1.2 million in a cryptocurrency scam targeting Silicon Valley investors.
Elden stated that Silicon Valley looks to be the region where cryptocurrency crime is more prevalent. He said, “Despite the area’s tech prowess, Silicon Valley victims spend more time online due to their lifestyles. They have been intrigued by cryptocurrency and have wondered how they could experiment with it. They are perhaps overly confident that they could never fall for such a scam.”
How do cybersecurity companies deal with scams like pig butchering?
People are ignoring suspicious phone calls, so many fraudsters have switched to a new tactic: scam text! Industrywide and government efforts to crack down on robocalls may be pushing scammers to move on to text messages. Pig butchering is a typical example.
Dr. Colin Windsor, a cybersecurity specialist at USC, said, “The pig butchering scam has moved from a simple telephone scam to a fraud form with a script, a division of labor, and an intense routine. There are often no fewer than five well-defined teams hidden behind it. For example, the supply team will collect potential targets for classification, the script team will customize the “capture” scheme according to user analysis, and the technology team will provide technical and information support to induce them to further fall into the fraud. Finally, the fund team will wash all the victims’ money and disappear so they can’t trace it.”
Dealing with pig butchering has become one of the most concerning issues in society. A practical solution is to use spam-blocking apps to minimize interruptions from spam texts like pig butchering. Some ideal solutions on the market, like the “big 3” cellular carriers’ services—AT&T Call Protect, Verizon Call Filter, and T-Mobile Scam Shield. Or choose an independent third-party app like RealCall. All of them can protect users from rampant scams and robocalls. These applications provide spam call protection, SMS filtering, real-time caller identification, reverse phone number lookup, and block/allow list functionality.
Consider the current spam-blocking app, RealCall, an AI-driven spam-blocking app that prevents unwanted calls and text messages (e.g., unsolicited marketing and scams) from reaching a mobile device. RealCall can achieve high-precision recognition of relevant content in the face of the current rampant pig butchering through machine learning of massive scam SMS samples. The mechanisms filter out the texts with up to 95% accuracy. In addition to warning users of pig butchering scams, RealCall warns of other growing threats like telemarketing messages, robocalls, and phishing.
“Instead of those simple and crude traditional scam templates, pig butchering scam messages are more like customized scripts.” Dr. Colin Windsor added, “Unlike blocking robocalls, blocking texts depends on machine learning capabilities and user-defined interception rules.” Spam-blocking apps like T-Mobile Scam Shield and RealCall allow users to create blocklists and allowlist rules for what they want to be filtered out or allowed to come through. They can even set up allowed keywords, blocked keywords, blocked phone numbers, and stopped area codes to control further and filter out likely spam messages. Beyond offering the most effective spam call protection, SMS filtering, real-time caller identification, and block/allow list functionality, RealCall also enables users to get revenge on spam callers using Answer Bots.
Although there are many such security tools, they are not foolproof. People can never take pig butchering lightly.
What should ordinary people do to avoid being scammed?
Pig butchering scams are very tricky and combine several methods in different types of scams. To the ordinary people, anything to watch for? How to avoid pig butchering scams?
- Avoid exposing too much private information on the network or via phone. The scammer will tailor a script for you according to your information. The scripts they make up are so actual that you don’t have any doubts about them. The following information may be the source material for them to make up the script: your address, phone number, family member’s names, car information, work history, social security numbers, birth date, school names, driver’s license numbers, insurance policy numbers, loan numbers, credit/debit card numbers, PINs, and bank account information, etc. Therefore, it’s of great necessity to protect personal information from being leaked via phone or any channel. That’s a natural immune system against scams.
- Keep vigilant when establishing contact with strangers. The most direct way is not to reply to those suspicious text messages. Unlike traditional fraud methods, pig butchering scams typically use various principles and operating techniques of psychology to make the victim willingly fall into the trap set by the criminal step by step. Don’t believe the so-called “acquaintance is fate.” These are deliberate deceptions.
- Improve the recognition ability. Try to spot and avoid pig butchering scams according to some traces and clues. If you find that a person talks with you frequently and only texts (online scammers will avoid phone and video conversations), boasts about his house, identity, and social status. While talking about daily routines, the conversation quickly turns to the high earnings the person is making by investing, etc. Well, he is probably a scammer.
- Investment and financial management information should be carefully distinguished. If you have no choice but to transfer money, you should confirm it face-to-face as much as possible.
- Install a spam-blocking app on your phone to protect you from spam texts. You can customize your own blocking rules based on call types, like calls except for contacts, VoIP calls, anonymous calls, international calls, area codes, etc.
Pig butchering is a globally rampant problem that’s only getting worse. Swindlers send massive messages to different people about phishing schemes or crypto investments that don’t exist at all. If you get an SMS text message from someone who says they want to help you make money by investing in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, be very careful! These messages are designed to fool people into downloading malware or giving their passwords over the internet for identity theft. We must be aware of pig butchering, lottery/sweepstakes scams, spam phishing schemes, fake tech support scams, and purchase protection offers, among other things.