pig butchering

An Update on Crypto Scams and Social Engineering

2024-04-15 by

Zoe Braiterman

As the “crypto winter” is behind us, and people once again see value in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, crypto scams are on the rise, targeting individuals online, seeking ransom in the form of these valuable digital assets.

Social Engineering, in General

The tactics used to manipulate victims of many cryptocurrency scams are similar in nature to those used by bad actors who target users of other types of systems.

The term, “social engineering”, is commonly used in the world of cybersecurity, to describe attacks that play upon human vulnerability.

Common types of social engineering attacks, such as phishing emails, often target victims by enticing them to share sensitive information, click on malicious links or open melodic or attachments.

Pig Butchering – a Type of Crypto Scam

Crypto scams target individuals, which extends the role of web3 safeguards beyond those that are applicable to businesses.

“Pig butchering” scams are a type of social engineering attack, which are often orchestrated by gangs, who force trafficking victims to scam Americans online, with the intention of enticing them to send them large payments in cryptocurrencies.

A scammer may begin a pig butchering attempt with a seemingly friendly text message, pretending to be:
Somebody who contacted the victim by accident as a result of having the wrong number for the person he/she was trying reach
An attractive man or woman seeking a relationship with the victim

Pig butchering targets the following vulnerabilities of victims.
A sense of loneliness that makes them susceptible to compliments or generous offers, even if they come from a stranger (if the stranger comes across as well-meaning)
Desensitization to the fact that they’re engaging in risky behavior when a dangerous interaction takes place online, rather than face-to-face

“Last Week Tonight” host, John Oliver, describes “pig butchering” in this video clip.


I challenge you to ask yourself what red flags in the following text messages indicate that this text is likely part of a crypto scam, and I encourage you to avoid engaging with senders of similar messages:

  • “Hi [Recipient’s name], Sorry I can’t talk on the phone right now. Text me back once you receive my text now. Thanks, [Name of boss or colleague]”
  • “Are you Rosa from Jessica’s party?”
  • “[Company name] is seeking candidates like you!”