SINGAPORE: The non-profit Global Anti-Scam Organisation (Gaso) currently has around 60 members in its Singapore chapter whose losses total S$10.7mil (RM33.27mil).
It was formed in May last year after victims of pig-butchering scams came together, and has members from all over the world, including Europe, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
According to news reports, pig-butchering scams started in China in 2016. Back then, scammers groomed their victims to place bets on fake gambling websites.
The Chinese term “sha zhu pan” – meaning to fatten a pig before slaughtering it – was coined by the perpetrators themselves to describe their scam.
Gaso said around 70% of victims in Singapore are women and 30% are men. The majority of victims are professionals between 30 and 40 years old, and less than 20% are married.
Their occupations range from commercial pilot to banker to data scientist to accountant. The largest loss so far is S$2.2mil (RM6.84mil), while the smallest amount lost was S$3,000 (RM9,330).
A spokesman for Gaso said that scams are typically run by Chinese criminal syndicates.
“These are not lone wolves, it is a huge production, where there are people scouring social media platforms for their next victim; people on the IT side managing investments; and others posing as customer service officers for these fake platforms,” said the spokesman.
“These are not fast scams either, these are insidious psychological scams, where victims are groomed for months,” she said, adding that they create the illusion that they are real people by sharing images and videos of other people that are purchased for as little as US$4 (RM16.74).
“They have hundreds of photos ready from this person’s life – whether it is selfies in the gym, preparing a meal, or videos of them doing things in their daily life.”
The complexity of the scam extends to their communication with the victim.
“When communicating with them, they reply so quickly that you don’t even have time to question it... when in fact you could be talking to five to six people at a time because they have a separate group chat helping them answer any questions, or working on responses,” added the spokesman. – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network