Common Romance Scams 2021: Pig Butchering (Sha Zhu Pan), Fake Investment, Sextortion, … and MORE!

romance scam
romance scam

Many people are looking for love online, and the search is even more common now during the pandemic. Romance scammers are looking for people to target, and they are happy to break hearts to get money. Here are a few things you should know so you don’t find yourself left poor and heartbroken by a scammer.

Look for these signs and check if your online relationship a romance scam!
Look for these signs to decide whether you’re in a romance scam!

4 Facts About Romance Scams

  1. Losses of more than $475M were reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2019.
  2. Reported romance scams are up nearly 20% in 2020. [Better Business Bureau]
  3. Around 25,000 people filed reports about romance scams in 2019, losing $201 million in total, with an average loss of $8,000 per person. [Federal Trade Commission]
  4. Romance scams are the #1 way that people aged 40-79 lose money from scams. [Federal Trade Commission]

Common Tactics of Romance Scams

Scammers use many tricks during romance scams, but the outcomes are similar. Here are some common tactics:

1. Investment opportunities

The scammer tries to lure victims into investing. The norm is that they ask victims to wire them money; alternatively, they email the victim links to fake investment applications & websites. These links will be malicious phishing links, designed to trick the victim into revealing personal information to the scammers. What’s more, recently scammers learned how to exploit victims more thoroughly — with pig butchering scams.

Pig Butchering Scams

Also known as “Sha Zhu Pan”, pig butchering is the latest online dating scam, and it can be harder than other scams for victims to spot the red flags. You are treated like a pig in the butcher.

Why? First, scammers spend a long time winning your trust (normally 1 to 3 months). After that, they bring up some nice investments in cryptocurrencies and invite you to join them. Instead of asking for your money, they lead you to a third-party investment application or website.

Everything seems legitimate at first, and you can even withdraw your profit. Yet when you decide to invest in a large amount of cryptocurrencies, the website denies your request with various excuses — taxes, processing fee, or other technical issues. The “customer service” may even prompt you to provide more money. This is when the scammers disappear; they run away with all the cryptocurrencies you invested!

Learn more about investment scams in this article.

2. Requests of money for emergencies

The scammers profess their love and offer marriage, but they can’t meet in person because they live too far away. Then they claim that an emergency has occurred, and they need money. In 2020, a common claim was that they have tested positive for COVID-19 and need money for treatment. After their target sends money, the scammer vanishes.

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3. Offers or gifts

The scammers claim that they want to send a gift from overseas, but a tariff or shipment fee is needed to send the goods. They ask the victim to wire money or send them prepaid cards and once they get the money, they disappear.

4. Intimate messages

Many victims have reported sextortion after exchanging private photos or having intimate video chats. The scammers threaten to share the explicit images/screenshots to the victim’s contacts unless they receive money.

5 Signs of Romance Scams

Is your online crush a scammer in disguise? Look out for these signs:  

  • They live in another country, or far from you.
  • The profile seems too good to be true or contains few photos.
  • They ask you for money.
  • They brought about investment opportunities and keep urging you to join.
  • There are always excuses for not meeting you in person.
  • They write in poor English.

If any of these are true, your online relationship might actually be a romance scam. Be the one that got away! 

5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Romance Scams

  • Check romance scammers’ photos — do a reverse image search on the person’s photo to see if they are a catfisher. Romance scammers fake their online profiles and use other people’s photos and information.
  • Don’t wire money to people that you only know from the internet. Requests for money should be a major red flag. 
  • Never give out your personal information. Avoid sharing phone numbers, addresses, passwords to bank accounts, and other identifying information. Be smart with your personal information to avoid identity theft and other scams.
  • Report to the FTCFBI, or the social media network where you met the person if you suspect a romance scam.
  • Add an extra layer of protection to your device with Trend Micro Maximum Security! It includes Web Threat Protection, Ransomware Protection, Anti-phishing, and Anti-spam Protection to help you combat scams and cyberattacks. Click the button below to give it a try:

As ever, if you’ve found this article an interesting and/or helpful read, please do SHARE it with friends and family to help keep the online community secure and protected.

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