US authorities have seized almost $9 million worth of cryptocurrency linked to a gang engaged in cryptocurrency investment fraud and romance scams.
The US Department of Justice has announced that the seized funds are connected to cryptocurrency wallet addresses alleged to be associated with a "pig butchering" gang that has claimed over 70 victims around the world.
"Pig butchering" is one of the world's fastest-growing types of scams. Typically, fraudsters lure unwary victims into an online romance (often having made the initial approach via a dating site or an unsolicited message via social media), building trust over time before eventually manipulating their target into investing in a cryptocurrency platform.
However, what the victim doesn't know is that the fraudster also controls the cryptocurrency platform and will eventually vanish, taking all the money with them.
The "pigs" (the victims) are effectively being "fattened up" for "slaughter" (the eventual theft of as much money as possible.)
According to the US Department of Justice, its investigators were able to trace victims' deposits, observing that the scammers would quickly launder their ill-gotten funds through multiple cryptocurrency addresses and different digital currencies - a technique known as "chain hopping."
"These scammers prey on ordinary investors by creating websites that tell victims their investments are working to make them money. The truth is that these international criminal actors are simply stealing cryptocurrency and leaving victims with nothing,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "This seizure should also serve as a reminder to cybercriminals that, although the current landscape of the cryptocurrency ecosystem may seem like an ideal way to launder ill-gotten gains, law enforcement will continue to develop the expertise needed to follow the money and seize it back for victims."
Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice revealed that it had seized approximately $122 million worth of cryptocurrency from accounts linked to pig butchering investment scams.
In 2022, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that investment fraud caused higher losses than any other form of scam reported by the public, with a total of $3.31 billion, with pig butchering and other cryptocurrency-related fraud taking the majority share.
Victims of internet scams are advised to file reports with the FBI's IC3 and with the FTC.
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