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In the media, this type of fraud is often referred to as pig butchering or financial grooming scams.

How do criminals identify their targets?

Scammers target anyone and everyone they can. They rely on researching details that are readily available on the internet, especially information on social media and dating apps. 

How does the scam start?

Criminals typically create fake profiles and reach out to people via WhatsApp, Facebook, Tinder or other dating sites and messaging platforms. They seek to develop relationships to build trust in order to scam potential victims. Sometimes they pretend to be an old acquaintance when messaging their targets. But they often present themselves as successful, wealthy people and start up a conversation with the hope of becoming a new friend or romantic partner. 

They will often profess love or affection quickly and share photos, but they will avoid meeting under the guise of being too busy or claiming to be shy. Once they achieve a regular rapport with their targets, often through calls and messages, the con artists will eventually encourage their targets to invest in a business venture of some kind using cryptocurrency. The criminals might not make outright requests for money, recognizing that doing so could alert potential victims to the scam. Instead, they will find ways to persuade people to part with their money. 

How do the targets become victims? 

Scammers often start small and slow. They will refer their targets to phony websites, apps or “special investment platforms” that seem legitimate but are controlled by criminals. They will encourage small initial investments that seemingly will yield modest gains. The criminals might even allow the victim to withdraw some small funds as part of the elaborate con. As the con continues, the scammers will encourage larger and larger investments, which could range in the tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. They will offer “limited-time deals” and might encourage the victim to borrow to “invest.”  

If the victim tries to withdraw their funds at this point, the platform could indicate that they must pay fees or taxes to access their funds — to get the victim to send in even more money. (Or the platform will show that there is an issue with the account.) Eventually, the scammers will end all communication and disappear, resulting in significant losses for the victim. 

How can you protect yourself?

  • Limit the information you post online.
  • Be skeptical of all unsolicited messages. 
  • Do not share your personal or financial information with strangers or with people you meet online. 
  • Do not send money to people you meet on the internet, social media (e.g., Facebook, X, Instagram) messaging platforms, or through apps of any kind.
  • Stay away from anyone who tries to get you to invest in a “special” crypto trading platform.
  • Be wary of anyone offering exclusive investment opportunities.
  • Do not trust anyone who offers a “sure bet.” All investments involve risk; there are no sure things.
  • Recognize that pressure to “act fast” might be a sign of a scam. 

If you or someone you know has been victimized, report it immediately to: