A new cryptocurrency scam accounting for losses running into millions of dollars has been detected in the Bay Area, United States, targeting Silicon Valley investors.
The crypto scam dubbed ‘Pig Butchering’ infects the victim’s phone through interactions on dating apps or social media platforms with perpetrators building a fake relationship while urging the target to workers in crypto, ABC7 News Bay Area reported on August 19.
Notably, the scammers send victims a link to what mirrors a legitimate crypto trading app or platform. However, after downloading the application, the scammers access their victims’ devices.
The scale of the scam is not yet known at the moment, but once the target’s phone is infected, the malware can access the victim’s data. At least two victims have been identified, cumulatively losing about $2.5 million in life savings. Notably, one victim is a Silicon Valley tech employee.
Scammers researching victims
According to authorities, the scam is advanced with perpetrators researching their victims before striking, specifically attacking their mobile devices. Furthermore, investigators note that the scam has manifested as counterfeit malicious apps that grant access to personal information.
“The apps are very compelling <…> in some cases it looks just like any other apps. A very convincing scheme here <…> Some of the sites are meant to look like the Apple App Store and they’ll even have ratings and say it’s an Apple approved app with a high rating. They’re getting more sophisticated,” said U.S. Secret Service Financial Analyst Andrew Frey.
In some cases, the fake investment platforms go to the extent of offering customer service helplines. However, the victims end up communicating directly with the scammers.
Privacy invasion set to persist
Investigators warned that even uninstalling the apps does not immediately fix the damage caused, stressing that the invasion of privacy may persist further. Victims are advised to carry out a factory reset.
Users are also encouraged to avoid downloading apps from links sent through WhatsApp and text messages but only focus on official platforms like App Store and Google Play.
Overall, with the growth of cryptocurrencies, scammers are taking advantage of unsuspecting investors. However, amid the recent market correction, data shows that revenue from crypto scams has plunged by about 65% in the last year.