HomeSecurity ArchitectureStudy reveals that Pig-Butchering scams rake in over $75 billion

Study reveals that Pig-Butchering scams rake in over $75 billion

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A recent study conducted by finance professor John Griffin and graduate student Kevin Mei from the University of Texas at Austin revealed shocking findings about the extent of pig-butchering scams, which have defrauded victims of over $75 billion globally. The study, titled “How Do Crypto Flows Finance Slavery? The Economics of Pig Butchering,” sheds light on the increasingly prevalent fraud scheme that has seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic.

The researchers gathered data from more than 4,000 victims of the scam and traced the flow of funds using blockchain tools, ultimately discovering that criminal networks had moved a staggering sum of $75 billion to various crypto exchanges over a four-year period. Griffin emphasized that these large criminal organizations, mainly based in Southeast Asia, have been able to operate with impunity, highlighting the challenges in combating such sophisticated scams.

The pig-butchering scam typically begins with an innocuous text message that leads unsuspecting individuals into fraudulent crypto investments. Once victims send funds to the scammers, often in substantial amounts, the perpetrators vanish, leaving victims empty-handed. The scale of losses experienced by victims is significant, with some individuals losing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. In a recent case, a Kansas banker was charged with embezzling $47.1 million from his bank as part of a pig-butchering scheme.

What makes this scam particularly insidious is the involvement of victims of human trafficking, predominantly from Southeast Asia, who are coerced into participating in the fraudulent activities. These individuals are promised high-paying jobs but are instead trapped in compounds in countries like Cambodia and Myanmar, where they are forced to engage in scams, often enduring physical abuse and torture. The United Nations estimates that over 200,000 people are currently held in these scam compounds, highlighting the dire human cost of these criminal activities.

The study also identified that a significant portion of the fraud proceeds flowed through popular crypto exchanges such as Coinbase, with scammers predominantly converting funds into Tether, a stablecoin. Despite claims by Tether’s CEO Paolo Ardoino that the report is false and misleading, Griffin asserted that Tether has become the currency of choice for criminal networks due to its perceived anonymity and ease of use for illicit activities.

While Tether and exchanges like Binance have cooperated with authorities to freeze accounts tied to fraud, the challenge lies in the rapid cashing out of funds by scammers before law enforcement intervention. The study’s findings suggest that significant amounts of money earned through pig-butchering scams are difficult to quantify accurately, given the complex nature of financial transactions involved.

Overall, the revelations of the study underscore the urgency of addressing the evolving landscape of financial fraud enabled by cryptocurrency and the need for enhanced collaboration between regulators, law enforcement agencies, and crypto exchanges to combat these illicit activities effectively. The human toll of these scams, particularly on vulnerable populations, further emphasizes the importance of investigative efforts to dismantle criminal networks orchestrating these sophisticated schemes.

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