Financial Grooming (formally called "Pig Butchering") is a criminal activity that victimizes people in multiple ways. Trafficking victims are typically held in isolation and coerced to perform fraudulent activities through violence and force. The individuals who fall prey to Financial Grooming schemes are convinced to invest most or all of their assets, only to later realize that their money has been stolen. For fraud victims, financial ruin is often accompanied by mental health crises and a sense of insecurity, as they are unable to recover their lost assets. The victims of Financial Grooming suffer immensely, with some left emotionally and financially devastated.
How it works:
- The scammer claims to have knowledge of cryptocurrency investment or trading opportunities that will result in substantial profits.
- The scammer directs you to a fraudulent website or application for an investment opportunity.
- After you invest an initial amount on the platform and see an alleged profit, the scammers allow you to withdraw a small amount of money, further gaining your trust.
- The scammer will now ask you to invest larger amounts of money and may often express the need to "act fast."
- When you are ready to withdraw funds again, the scammers create reasons why this cannot happen.
- The scammer may say that there are additional taxes or fees that need to be paid, or that the minimum account balance has not been met to allow a withdrawal. This is an attempt to entice you to provide additional funds. Sometimes, a "customer service group" gets involved, which is also part of the scam.
- You are not able to withdraw any money, and the scammers most often stop communicating with you after they cease to send additional funds.
- The scammer targets a victim on a dating app like Tinder, initiating an exclusively online romantic relationship.
- Through online chats, a level of trust is established.
- Inevitably, the "lover" encourages their target to invest in cryptocurrency, commonly directing them to a fake website or app that is secretly controlled by the scammer.
- After the victim has agreed to invest some money in the phony platform, the lover disappears (along with the money) - never to be seen again.
- Once the victim starts getting skeptical or trying to withdraw their funds, they are often told to pay tax on the gains before funds can be unlocked.
Here are some common elements of a financial grooming scam:
- Dating apps: Financial Grooming attempts are common on dating apps, but they can begin with almost any type of communication, including SMS text messages.
- WhatsApp: In virtually all documented cases of pig butchering, the target is moved fairly quickly into chatting with the scammer via WhatsApp.
- No video: The scammers will come up with all kinds of excuses not to do a video call. But they will always refuse.
- Investment chit-chat: Your contact (eventually) claims to have inside knowledge about the cryptocurrency market and can help you make money.
Here's how to protect yourself:
- Never send money, trade, or invest based on the advice of someone you have only met online.
- Don't talk about your current financial status to unknown and untrusted people.
- Don't provide your banking information, Social Security Number, copies of your identification or passport, or any other sensitive information to anyone online or to a site you do not know is legitimate.
- If an online investment or trading site is promoting unbelievable profits, it is most likely that—unbelievable.
- Be cautious of individuals who claim to have exclusive investment opportunities and urge you to act fast.