CI issues red flags, tips to avoid falling victim to pig butchering schemes during International Fraud Awareness Week


Date: November 13, 2023


WASHINGTON — It's human nature. People want company, and online romances have blossomed as more people use dating applications and social media to build relationships. While the hope is to live happily ever after, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) special agents are seeing pig butchering schemes pop up across the globe. Flirtatious strangers use social media to lure unsuspecting romantic partners, who serve as the "pigs," to invest in cryptocurrency trading platforms. When victims attempt to cash out, criminals seize their funds. This year, as part of International Fraud Awareness Week, which takes place Nov. 12 – 18, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) warns U.S. taxpayers – Don't. Get. Butchered.

"Cryptocurrency scammers have become more sophisticated with their schemes. It's a shame to watch people hopelessly invest their savings in crypto and earn returns on their deposits – to never see the money again. This International Fraud Awareness Week, we don't want additional victims to get butchered," said CI Chief Jim Lee.

CI investigators warn that U.S. taxpayers are currently the most targeted population for pig butchering schemes. Thus far, the highest identified loss in one of these schemes is $2 million, but average losses are hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you meet someone on a dating website or app and they urge you to invest in crypto, it is likely a scam.

Individuals should be aware of these red flags:

  • A long-lost contact or stranger sends you a message on social media.
  • You are urged to send money to an investment platform that is similar but does not match the platform's official website address. This is called typo-squatting.
  • You have an online romantic interest who asks you to send payment to them or an investment platform in cryptocurrency.
  • You embark on an online romantic relationship, and your love interest guarantees profits or big returns if you invest with them.
  • A romantic interest reaches out to you through an online messaging application like WhatsApp with account numbers so you can transfer of funds.

If you or someone you know is a victim of pig-butchering, please contact local law enforcement or one of CI's 20 field offices.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.