Singapore netizens have found themselves the victims of “pig-butchering” cryptocurrency scams, as per the Chinese name of the malicious activity.
A total of SGD190.9m ($141.84m) was lost in 2021 to such scams, which is five times more than the amount lost in 2019, SGD36.9m ($27.42m).
The pig-butchering scam is where the perpetrators try to establish a romantic relationship with the victims.
The “sha zhu pan” or fattening a pig before the slaughter has been increasingly common of late with how interconnected the world has become and the scores of inexperienced consumers getting online.
The Strait Times has reported extensively on such scams in Singapore, citing local authorities. Victims apparently transferred money to banks in China and Hong Kong.
“They were asked to pay administrative fees, security fees or taxes in order to reap profits. In many cases, victims earned a profit in the initial stage, leading them to believe that the investment is legitimate and lucrative”, The Strait Times wrote citing local police reports.
Fraudsters focus on people who are female and aged between 25 and 40. Nearly 70% of all victims fall in this category. Nearly 90% of the women were also highly educated with at least a bachelor’s degree. The police estimate that people lose an average of $134,940 per person from such scams.
Singapore is far from the only place where such scams have been happening. Australians have been similarly losing record amounts to such scams, or some $139m in 2021 alone.
Romance scammers develop and exploit a romantic relationship with their victims until they transfer the money. Some scams may continue years, authorities caution.