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Cryptocurrency scams metastasize into new forms

In the spring of 2023, a recent retiree was drawn into what would become a horrifically expensive “relationship.” Lured through a dating application by someone who claimed to live in his area, he was eventually convinced to “invest” in what he was told was a safe, sure bet—something called “digital currency mining .” He would eventually invest over $20,000 in the scheme, depleting his personal retirement . The scam was a new variant on what has become perhaps the fastest growing segment of online fraud, accounting for billions of dollars in losses from thousands of victims in the US alone—cryptocurrency-based investment fraud. Because of the ease with which cryptocurrency ignores borders and enables multinational crime rings to quickly obtain and launder funds, and because of widespread confusion about how cryptocurrency functions, a wide range of internet-based scams have focused on convincing victims to convert their personal to crypto—and then steal it from them. Among these sorts of organized criminal activities, none seem as pervasive as sha zhu pan (“pig butchering”, 杀猪盘)—a scam pattern upon which the crime perpetrated against this victim, “Frank,” was based.  Originating in at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, pig butchering scams have expanded globally ever since, becoming a multi-billion-dollar fraud phenomenon. These scams have done more than steal cryptocurrency; they have robbed people of their life , and in one reported case a scam led to the failure of a small bank by ensnaring a bank officer. In the past year, while well-worn versions of these scams persist, we've seen the growth of a much more sophisticated version—one that uses the power of the blockchain itself to bypass most of the defenses provided by mobile device vendors and give the scam operators direct control over funds victims convert into cryptocurrency.  These new scams,… 

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