“Pig butchering” is on the rise this year, causing the FBI to anticipate higher losses with romance and investment scams. Named for a time-tested, heavily scripted and contact-intensive process to “fatten up” the prey before slaughter, criminals con victims into believing they are in a trustworthy relationship online. The victim is then convinced to send money or invest in high-yield cryptocurrency accounts, and the scammer then disappears with the money.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center handles approximately 2.500 complaints per day regarding online scams. FBI Supervisory Agent Aaron Seres said one of the biggest scams this holiday season is charity scams. He advises anyone wanting to donate to look for traditional, legitimate websites.
According to Seres, criminals are at their most active during the holidays.
“Thieves are getting better at disguising themselves as honest sellers, especially online,” Seres said.
FBI Supervisory Agent Chad Hunt said in addition to online methods, scammers are also focusing on texting and social apps as well.
“Gift cards are a favorite target since they are very hard to trace,” Hunt said. He also issues a warning to shoppers to be cautious of any prices that seem too good to be true. Scammers will offer to buy last minute items but never pay, or will sell popular products at extremely low prices but never deliver the product.
From January 2022 through October 2022, IC3 received more than 44,220 complaints for non-payment or non-delivery scams with losses totaling over $276 million dollars.
Tips to avoid being victimized:
- Do your homework on the retailer/website/person to ensure legitimacy.
- Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer on the Better Business Bureau website at www.bbb.org.
- Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices.
- Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have “https” in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.
- Beware of purchases or services that require payment with a gift card.
- Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited emails.
- Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email or respond to them.
- Check credit card statements routinely.
- Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
- Secure credit card accounts, even rewards accounts, with strong passphrases. Change passwords and check accounts routinely.
The FBI states that consumers that find themselves victims of any type of scam should contact their local bank immediately and direct them to stop or reverse the transactions. Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the transfer was sent. Call the local police to file a report, then file with the FBI at www.IC3.gov.