Romancing the scammer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

False trust key to ‘pig butchering’ dating app scam

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Commerce is issuing an investor alert for Ohioans to be cautious when interacting with strangers on dating and messaging apps, email, and text messages — it could be part of a so-called “pig butchering” scam.

Named after the practice of fattening a pig before the slaughter, scammers feed their victims, too, but with promises of romance and outlandish investment returns before taking the victims’ money and cutting them off.

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“Pig-butchering” scams have grown dramatically in recent years, with individual investors sometimes losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The scam frequently targets victims on dating and messaging platforms using the false pretense of a romantic relationship or investment opportunity.

Once trust is established, the scammer tricks victims into sending money to cryptocurrency or other trading accounts that the scammer controls.

“Instead of asking for money upfront, these romance scammers take their time because it’s the relationship they cultivate with the victims that creates a false sense of security,” said Ohio’s Securities commissioner Andrea Seidt. “Those digital ‘sweet nothings’ can leave investors with nothing though, so Ohioans should hold onto their hard-earned money until they’ve investigated the sweet-talker and the investment through an independent and reliable source.”

The official alert highlights several red flags.

An unsolicited message from an unknown sender is one of the biggest red flags, but investors should also watch out for things like misspellings, grammatical errors, mysterious links and high-pressure sales tactics involving investments.

This is especially true for opportunities including cryptocurrency, which can be hard to recover. Investors should also be wary of messages from people expressing romantic interests that avoid live face-to-face interaction, such as through video chat.

Hiding their true identity is a key tactic for these scammers.

“Anyone offering or selling securities or investment advice should generally be registered with the Ohio Division of Securities,” said Commissioner Seidt. “If a stranger messages you and tries to convince you to invest with them, or asks to trade money for you in any kind of security or cryptocurrency, do a quick background check first by contacting the Divisions’ Investor Protection Hotline at 1-877-683-7841 or via email at”

The staff can provide information about whether the person is registered to buy or sell securities or to offer investment advice, and whether they have had any regulatory actions or disciplinary events in their past.

The staff can also do a registration check on the trading platform and the investment opportunity as well.