Pig Butchering & Investment Scams: The $3B Cybercrime Threat Overtaking BEC

Pig butchering is a repulsively named, rising investment scam that uses a potent mix of the promise of romance and the lure of making easy cryptocurrency millions against its unsuspecting targets.

Through a careful process of “fattening up” victims with small returns on cryptocurrency deals and personal interactions, often with a romance element, all of which is meant to convince them to invest wildly. If successful, as they often are, threat actors are able to make off with the “whole hog” of their targets’ assets.

Investment fraud as a category, of which pig butchering is a subset, cost victims about $3 billion in 2022, making it the top cybercrime loss leader, overtaking business email compromise (BEC) and even ransomware, according to a new analysis from Cofense of the latest FBI Internet Crime Report (IC3).

Within that, Cofense researcher Ronnie Tokazowski says that Cofense observed a 127% rise in pig butchering cases in 2022, though the latest IC3 doesn’t specifically break out the threat. 

“FBI has mentioned pig butchering as a scam in several public alerts, news outlets have reported a massive increase, and seeing this missing is very surprising,” Tokazowski says, noting that one alert was issued in New Mexico to warn residents about the rise of pig butchering scams during last December’s holiday season.

“I have spoken with IC3 in the past, and this [oversight] may be a result of how metrics and data are collected,” Tokazowski explains about his findings. “What I mean by that is if a victim initially

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