How a simple “hello” from a stranger can become the start of a million-dollar scam

By | May 8, 2023

The Kaimi debacle began in December, with an Instagram post about a Japanese monkey from a handsome stranger named Mike. Over the next few months, ‘Mike’ and Kaimi would develop a friendship that quickly blossomed into romance.

Kaimi had no idea that he was caught up in a scam known as “pig slaughter”, from the Chinese phrase sha zhu pan – the name comes from the idea that scammers must first “fatten up” victims with flattery and a false link before stealing their money.

Experts told CNBC that it’s easy to dismiss victims of these types of scams as ignorant or stupid, but in doing so, we overlook how manipulative they can become cheaters.

Matt Friedman is the CEO of the Mekong Club, a Hong Kong-based organization that works with businesses to fight modern slavery. “There are ten traps coming and they are very clear. But on the 11th, I might step on it too,” he tells CNBC.

Fraud often starts with a simple text message: “Hello!”.

Many ignore the messages sent by scammers. But if they do respond, scammers move quickly to create an interaction. The mysterious messenger can claim to be someone rich variety and will share pictures of luxury lifestyle of. Little by little he will try to create romantic relationship with the victim and all this can last from a few weeks to a few months.

In the third stage, scammers offer “teach” the victim how to trade CRYPTOCURRENCIES he foreign coins. Scam networks operate fake trading platforms that look “exactly how they’re supposed to,” says Friedman. Victims are “taught” how to trade and view fake trades, designed to show non-existent profits of 15% to 20%.

When victims try to withdraw money or have exhausted fresh funds, the fake stock exchanges they close the accounts and demand payment. Panicked and with the support of their supposed friend, the victims remit what little money they have left. The exchange and its “friend” block the victim soon after.

may be necessary weeks until the victims realize that they have been deceived and even more so until they admit what has happened to them.

Experts told CNBC that scammers through phone messages they are not the true masterminds of the scam, although they sometimes get a cut of the profits. More often than not, they take routes through Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar to work in organized fraud rings, according to reports by ProPublica and Vice.

Prosecutors and prosecutors acknowledge that pig slaughter is a problem, but usually tell victims that it is largely they can’t help. The relative losses in the US from such frauds amounted to 3.31 billion dollars last year, according to the FBI, but experts say many victims are too ashamed to report their losses.

Dennis, a small business owner in Maryland, told CNBC that his own scammer “Sarah” reached out to him on Facebook around the same time Mike first reached out to Kaimi.

Kaimi lost over $120,000 and Dennis around $500,000.

“My love for you will last forever”

Mike texted Kaimi for the first time in late December, making one joke about a japanese monkey that Kaimi had posted.

“When I saw who had sent a text, I thought, ‘I don’t know if this person is real,'” Kaimi tells CNBC. After a few days, Kaimi responded with a hasty message. Mike responded immediately and with great enthusiasm, before suggesting that they continue the conversation on a messaging app called Line.

CNBC reviewed thousands of messages between Kaimi and Mike exchanged through April 2023.

They were bonded by their shared love of travel, and eventually Mike invited Kaimi to visit him in Seoul. They were shopping, Mike said.

Kaimi told Mike that his teaching schedule did not allow him to travel and that he would have to save up for that trip. When she was pressed, Kaimi told Mike about them. your financial difficultiesdue to past credit card debt.

Mike offered to teach Kaimi how to trade foreign currencies so she could travel to Seoul and pay off her debt. The dialogue now moved between tips on how to get rich and tender messages.

My love for you will last foreverMike told him.

Kaimi agreed in January to open an account on the forex platform Mike claimed to be using, called DPEX.

DPEX was not a real exchange, but one showcase which was controlled by the con group Mike belonged to.

The transfers started with small amounts – the first is worth just $140. DPEX claimed to convert ether transfers into Tether, a USD stablecoin.

Initially, he saw his fake account double his original capital, prompting him to send a few thousand dollars from his bank to over the next few weeks.

But when he went to withdraw the winnings, the Bigone-Eth platform demanded another $180,000 to release the initial amount and give him his “winnings”.

“I want to pay you off as soon as possible, get most of the debt down, and then plan a trip to Korea to see you,” Kaimi told Mike, who, however, pressured him into depositing more into his account and gambling more. tall. .

The fraud continued in a predictable pattern, asking Kaimi for more and more money, for alleged fines of $64,000. When the scammers demanded another $65,000, Kaimi realized she wasn’t going to get her money back.

When Mike pressured him to pay DPEX, Kaimi lashed out. “I did report to the fbi and the Securities and Exchange Commission,” he told Mike.

“They talk to you and completely manipulate you”

Dennis had no reason to be suspicious when Sarah sent him a message on Facebook.

“I just said hello and bye. But she he kept talking to me And we became friends.”

Sarah claimed to be a wealthy executive at a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer. She showed him pictures of her “uncle” of her, wearing Alibaba’s Jack Ma. She also sent him photos and videos of luxury stores and departments.

But it was her affection and care that attracted him more, he explains, than her material wealth.

They talk to you and manipulate you”, he tells CNBC. she was in the middle of a divorce with his wife, with whom they had a son together, and in his messages with Sarah he shared feelings of inadequacy that he felt like a father.

Sarah offered Dennis comfort. They talked for hours every day and weeks passed before she offered to teach him how to trade cryptocurrency.

Furthermore, he claimed that his powerful uncle ran an exchange large enough to influence cryptocurrency prices and guarantee a profit. According to experts, scammers often invoke a highly connected relative as part of his fictional success.

Sarah pointed him to an “exchange” called Bigone-Eth, which he could only access through an iOS app called Trust Wallet, to which Dennis sent thousands of dollars, arriving between late December and January, to buy bitcoins for value of almost $160,000.

However, this was not enough for Sarah, who told Dennis that he needed to invest at least $500,000. Otherwise, she told him, his son would “suffer” for his laziness.

But like Kaimi, Dennis felt like he’d had enough. The problem came when he went to withdraw his winnings: Bigone-Eth “banned” him and demanded $180,000 to release the remaining $1.2 million, so he began to suspect they were trying to rip him off. In March, months after he started talking to Sarah, he started looking for scams involving fake cryptocurrency brokers.


In California, Santa Clara County District Attorney Erin West is pressing regulators and law enforcement to better determine how these scams work.

I wish I could save them all”, he tells CNBC.

Dennis and Kaimi’s losses are just a small sample of the billions of dollars lost to similar scams that have fallen victim to thousands of people. In 2022, the Department of Homeland Security estimated related losses at more than $3.3 billion.

Crypto exchanges like Binance, and Coinbase They are very convenient platforms for scammers because they have a reliable reputation and a high volume of transactions. All three exchanges have warned about the risks of being scammed, but for some that is not enough.

When approached with, the exchange told Kaimi that couldn’t help him to get your money back. “I’m not asking you to take responsibility for getting my money back,” she said. But he pointed out that his scammers had been using the same wallet for months.

Within hours, Dennis’ scammer sent him the new domain name and begged him to respond. Dennis ignored her.

“Disappointing men with no sense of responsibility,” he wrote the next day.

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