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11.03.2024 Featured ‘Pig Butchering’ — INTERPOL Links Black Axe, Eiye to New Fraud Scheme

Published 11th Mar, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

The International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) has named Nigerian cult groups Black Axe, Airlords and Supreme Eiye as prominent organised crime groups using human trafficking victims to carry out ‘pig butchering’ scams.

INTERPOL published findings of its latest assessment of global financial fraud on Monday.

According to INTERPOL’s new assessment, these crime groups have upped their use of technology to better target victims around the world.

“Business Email Compromise remains one of the most prevalent trends in Africa; however, there is increasing use of the pig butchering fraud. Cases of this fraud type have been identified in West and Southern Africa, targeting victims in other jurisdictions beyond the continent,” INTERPOL stated on Monday.

“Certain West African criminal groups, including the Black Axe, Airlords and Supreme Eiye, continue to grow transnationally, and are known to have extensive skills in online financial fraud such as romance fraud, investment fraud, advance fee fraud, and cryptocurrency fraud.”

READ MORE: How Black Axe Laundered €1.3 Million Using Irish Teens

WHAT IS PIG BUTCHERING?

Top tech website WIRED added “Pig Butchering Scam” to its hacker lexicon in 2023.

Experts have said that pig butchering scams are a new variation of digital swindling techniques fast becoming a global threat.

On the one hand, the unsuspecting victim is completely robbed of their fortune or savings. On the other hand, this crime operates on a massive scale by using forced labour.

Pig butchering scams were initially launched in China as ‘shāzhūpán’, where fraudsters made sure to get as much money as possible from unsuspecting victims who had been encouraged to back cryptocurrency schemes and other financial trading with all of their earnings.

First, the criminals cold-contact people randomly. Then they become friends with those kind enough to engage in good-natured conversations at first. The politeness and grace the unsuspecting victims show give way to the crafting of a more insidious trap.

“Cryptocurrency Confidence scams, commonly referred to as “pig butchering” scams, are heavily scripted and contact intensive which occur when a scammer makes contact with a victim—usually on dating and social media apps,” the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) explained in December.

“After a period of building trust and rapport, the scammer will convince the victim to make investments in cryptocurrency to take advantage of the potential for high-yield returns. To facilitate the investment and demonstrate the returns on investment, victims are directed to websites that appear authentic but are actually controlled by the scammer.

“After the victim has made several cryptocurrency investments through these fake sites, which purport significant returns, requests by victims to withdraw or cash out their investments are denied for one reason or another. The scammer then vanishes, cutting off contact with the victim, and taking the invested sums with them.”

The fraudsters do a good job at presenting themselves as highly successful traders in cryptocurrency and showing their victims fictitious returns to encourage additional investments.

From INTERPOL’s work, FIJ learned that criminal gangs have developed scripts that allow them to delegate the rigorous work of following up on numerous victims to petty scammers and forced labourers who are victims of human trafficking.

READ ALSO: 1,000 People in Ireland Connected to €70m Black Axe Fraud

MONUMENTAL LOSS AROUND THE GLOBE

Just like the previous variants of mobile or digital fraud, billions of dollars are going down the drain because of pig butchering scams every year.

In 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received more than 4,300 submissions related to pig butchering scams. Those reports represented more than $429 million in losses.

TIME reported last year that victims lost as much as $75 billion to pig butchering scams around the world.

READ ALSO: Wealthy Nigerian Faces Deportation in the US Over Fraudulent Past

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MAKING CRIME EASY?

“We are facing an epidemic in the growth of financial fraud, leading to individuals, often vulnerable people, and companies being defrauded on a massive and global scale,” Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL’s secretary general, said.

“Changes in technology and the rapid increase in the scale and volume of organized crime has driven the creation of a range of new ways to defraud innocent people, business and even governments. With the development of AI and Cryptocurrencies, the situation is only going to get worse without urgent action.

“It is important that there are no safe havens for financial fraudsters to operate. We must close existing gaps and ensure information sharing between sectors and across borders is the norm, not the exception.

“We also need to encourage greater reporting of financial crime as well as invest in capacity building and training for law enforcement to develop a more effective and truly global response.”

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Published 11th Mar, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

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