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Pig-butchering scams have looted more than $75bn globally, new study says

Pig-butchering scams have looted more than $75bn globally, new study says
Those sending messages are often victims themselves, forced to work for criminal organisations. Credit: Andrés Tapia
  • Pig-butchering frauds have been a cash cow for criminals.
  • UK law enforcement will have fewer restrictions in crypto cases.
  • Bitcoin miner Marathon Digital reports record earnings for 2023.

Pig-butchering scams steal more than $75bn

Pig-butchering scams have raked in more than $75 billion globally, exceeding earlier estimates, according to a new study cited by Bloomberg.

The author of the study, finance professor John Griffin of the University of Texas at Austin, gathered crypto addresses from more than 4,000 victims and using blockchain tools, tracked the funds to scammers, mostly in Southeast Asia, the report said.

From January 2020 to February 2024, criminal networks moved more than $75 billion to crypto exchanges, Griffin said, adding that some of the total may have come from other illicit activities.

“These are large criminal organised networks, and they’re operating largely unscathed,” Griffin told Bloomberg.

“In the old days, it would be extremely difficult to move that much cash through the financial system,” Griffin said. “You’d have to go through banks and follow ‘know-your-customer’ procedures. Or you’d have to put cash in bags.”

Pig-butchering romance scams are often initiated with what may look like a wrong-number text, and those who respond are lured eventually into fake crypto investments, then the scammers disappear.

Victims can lose thousands or even millions of dollars. A Kansas banker was recently charged with embezzling $47 million as part of such a scam, the report noted.

Those sending the messages are often victims themselves, lured with job offers to compounds in countries including Cambodia and Myanmar, then forced to scam, sometimes beaten and tortured, the report said.

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DL News has reported that fraudsters are even selling pig-butchering kits on the dark web.

UK authorities to have more power confiscating crypto

UK law enforcement will be able to freeze crypto assets used in crimes without requiring a conviction from the end of April, Cointelegraph reported.

Amendments were made to the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, which allows authorities to seize crypto assets suspected of links to illicit activities, without requiring extensive legal procedures.

Marathon Digital swings to profit in 2023

Bitcoin miner Marathon Digital reported that its 2023 revenue increased 229% to a record $387.5 million from $117.8 million the previous year. Net income for 2023 rose to a record $261.2 million from a net loss of $694 million.

Bitcoin production increased 210% to a record 12,852 BTC in 2023 from 4,144 the year before.

“Given our momentum, our strong balance sheet, and the differentiators we are building with our technology stack, we are optimistic that the most exciting times for our organisation are still to come,” Chief Executive Fred Thiel said.

Crypto market movers

  • Bitcoin is down 0.63% today at $61,652.10.
  • Ethereum is down 0.66% today at $3,401.29.

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