A host on The Project has revealed she was targeted in a ‘pig butchering’ scam.
The sophisticated swindle involves criminals approaching people, often the old or the lonely, with a ‘wrong number’ introductory message before they develop a friendship over months and convince them to invest their life savings in a bogus scheme.
It takes its name from the concept of fattening up a pig before slaughter.
After a news segment about the scam aired on The Project on Sunday night, host Rachel Corbett revealed she had received a phone call version of the con.
‘It was such a weird situation that somebody had called, asked for a name that wasn’t mine. I said ‘no’ and then instead of doing the normal thing of just hanging up and going, ‘sorry’, they said, ‘oh, I must have got it wrong’ and they started to keep me on the phone,’ Corbett told her co-hosts.
‘Pig butchering’ involves criminals approaching people, often the old or the lonely, with a ‘wrong number’ introductory message before they develop a friendship over months and convince them to invest their life savings in a bogus scheme (stock image)
The TV star said the call caught her by surprise and ‘felt weird and wrong and odd’.
Australian victims of ‘pig butchering’, which is also known as ‘romance baiting, lost up to $4500 every hour in 2022.
The Australian Federal Police is cautioning lonely hearts to be wary of organised criminals this Valentine’s Day.
For the first time, it released a pig-butchering criminal playbook seized in a raid to inform the public of the tactics used.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Cybercrime Command Chris Goldsmid the pig butchering manual had four key steps – packaging, raising, killing/investment scam and cash out.
The ‘packaging’ stage involves scammer adopting the persona of a good looking and successful business owner or investor before they send a genuine-seeming accidental ‘hello’ text intended for someone else.
Scammers often use a genuine-seeming ‘wrong number’ message before seeking to develop a friendship with the victim over months to convince them to invest their life savings in a bogus scheme
Offenders are encouraged to say they are 28-35 years old, to show they understand pop culture and are educated or have well-paying jobs.
Next comes the ‘raising’ stage where the scammer slowly grooms the individual over a period of weeks, months or even years.
They often message their victims every morning and reach out every night before confessing their love and using pet names for the victims, like ‘baby’ or ‘wife’.
Scammers then flaunt their supposed wealthy lifestyle and encourage the victims to think they can achieve the same thing if they invest through certain schemes, often involving cryptocurrency.
Victims think they are trading on legitimate platforms but the money is actually siphoned into an account owned by offenders who created fake platforms that look identical to well-known sites.
Finally, the scammer reaches the ‘cash out’ stage where they convince the victim to make one final investment with a false promise it will allow them to withdraw their funds.
There are different manuals that tailored for age, gender, sexual preference and geography.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Goldsmid said traditional romance scams were often initiated on dating apps but pig butchering often started with cold texting individuals on messaging apps.
‘Pig butchering does not target individuals with the false hope of a relationship but instead initiates a conversation looking for friendship,” Assistant Commissioner Goldsmid said.
‘Scammers usually say the accidental messages are because of ‘fate’ or ‘divine will’.
‘Over the course of months or years, the scammer will flaunt a lavish lifestyle and leave a trail of comments about their wealth, such as bragging about the value in their cryptocurrency wallets.
‘Once victims ask how they are making their money, victims are directed to a complete replica of an investment site that shows the growth of an investment.
‘When the victim sends money to invest, victims are provided weekly, month or yearly investment statements, that show continual growth in their investment. Often the victim provides even more money to invest.
‘When the victim wants to cash out or the scammer believes there no more money to scam out of the victim, the offender tries one more time to get money by saying things like, ‘taxes need to be paid but I know a great accountant’, or ‘we are all meeting at a luxurious resort for our AGM, our travel agent can book for you, just provide them the cash for the airfares and accommodation’.
‘However, before it gets to that point, a lot of hard work goes into grooming the victim – and these are the signs we want the community to be aware of.’
He said victims of these sophisticated scams should not be embarrassed and encouraged them to come forward.