Smart About Money: “Pig Butchering” scam targets local homeowners

Nick Maffeo

Some say it’s an ugly name – the “Pig Butchering” scam. But it’s the scammers’ own description of the ugly crime they’re committing and how they view their victims.

“Pig Butchering” is a new-ish Covid-era scam. It’s happening all over the country and it’s absolutely happening in Metro Boston and even right here in Canton.

According to multiple sources ranging from the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to Wikipedia, “Pig butchering scams involve a series of meticulously-planned steps to deceive and exploit victims, typically focusing on cryptocurrency investment fraud.”

The four basic steps of the “Pig Butchering” scam typically include:
1) Gaining trust through casual conversations, sometimes started by a seemingly mis-sent text or a chat on social media
2) The “friend-to-friend” introduction of an investment opportunity
3) Encouraging the victim to use an apparently-safe 3rd-party digital platform or app to make their investment – not sending money to the scammer (A twist!)
4) The disappearance of the scammer after the victim wants to cash out or has no more to “invest”

The consequences of falling victim to a “Pig Butchering” scam tend to be severe and the potential for “financial ruin” for local homeowners is huge. These scammers are going after big sums of money – often directly targeting victims’ home equity lines of credit and/or their retirement accounts.

Massachusetts bankers recently heard about a couple who were enraged that a metro Boston branch of a large national bank refused to wire $285,000 out of their home equity line. They should have been grateful. That bank’s absolute refusal to send that wire prevented them from owing $285,000 they were about to be scammed out of.

In that specific case, chances are the loss would probably have caused their home to be foreclosed on. The scammers had told that couple that their bank might ask them questions and that they were not required to tell the bank anything. Anyone who is encouraging you to take that attitude or lie to your bank is a scammer. A criminal. Your enemy.

Many people wonder how others fall for scams. They’re 100% sure they would never fall for a scam. A lot of those people could fall for this long con. It starts with “making a new friend” – usually online. Then the “new friend” tells them about a supposedly hot investing opportunity. It’s often about “crypto” and people believe there is money to be made in “crypto.” The victims are targeted for being “fattened up” by being lulled by elaborate frauds that seem safe enough at first.

The common thread in the “Pig Butchering” scam is a new online “friend” telling you about an investment opportunity – usually involving crypto. If you are approached in this way, be extremely skeptical. Take the time to check it out offline and in person with your bank or a local licensed investment advisor.

Other local resources you can trust include the Canton office of the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office (781-830-4800) and the Canton Police (781-828-1212). The Canton Council on Aging is also home to the Canton Anti-Scam Task Force. Their phone number is 781-828-1323.

Remember: If your bank or mutual fund company asks you questions about a transaction or refuses to wire money for you, the chances are very good that they are preventing you from becoming the victim of a very serious scam/crime.

If – even after you decided it was most likely a scam – you find yourself continuing to wonder if “maybe, just maybe” what you were told by a new online “friend” about a “fabulous” investment opportunity could have been true, that is a major red flag of something you should be very glad to have walked away from.

From the “Smart About Money” Canton Citizen column published on April 18, 2024.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton.
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