Episode 19 of Public Key, the Chainalysis podcast, is here! In this episode, we talk with Vice World News’ Southeast Editor, Alastair McCready, who is based in Cambodia and talking about pig butchering scams, a growing form of crime at the intersection of cryptocurrency, romance scams, and human trafficking.

You can listen or subscribe now on Spotify, Apple, or Audible. Keep reading for a full preview of episode 19.

Public Key Episode 19 preview: Human Trafficking Victims turned scammers 

If you’ve ever gotten a friendly text message from a seemingly wrong number, you might have been a target of the latest industrial scale scam targeting wealthy individuals around the world, known as Pig Butchering. In this week’s episode of Public Key, our host, Ian Andrews,CMO at Chainalysis, is joined by Alastair McCready, Southeast Asia Editor of Vice World News. McCready is based in Cambodia, where pig butchering is especially prevalent. 

Alastair explains how the scammers ensnare their victims by first building friendship and sometimes romance. We also learn that many of the scammers are victims themselves, having been trafficked and held against their will, forced to work for powerful organized crime rings. Some estimates put the total profits of pig butchering scammers at more than $1 Billion, with very little resistance from pandemic stricken and financially depleted governments. 

Quote of the episode

“And you know what so successful about this scam. It’s so much more subtle. You’re not getting an email saying “you’ve got, there’s a million dollars that needs releasing in a bank account in Switzerland.” This is just kind of subtle little messages, like on WhatsApp. And if you were the kind of person who was kind of looking for some sort of connection, you could see how you’d be easily lured in, sucked in by a seemingly innocuous conversation with a nice person.” – Alastair McCready (Southeast Asia Editor, Vice World News)

Minute-by-minute episode breakdown

  • (2:05) – What is Pig Butchering and how does it differ from other scams and schemes associated with cryptocurrency 
  • (4:25) – Analyzing whether Pig Butchering is a Billion Dollar industry 
  • (7:05) – The process in which the scammers bonded with their victims and slowly gained trust
  • (10:45) – Detailed look at how scammers were able to utilize crypto and legit exchanges to drain victims of their life savings
  • (15:05) – Real life cases of human trafficking and forceable confinement in former casino resorts
  • (18:03) – Uncovering the brutality and inhumane conditions of the human trafficking victims 
  • (20:25) – Understanding if governments are compliant in this activity or taking action to stop pig butchering operations
  • (23:05) – The importance of spreading the word about this emerging industrial scale scam

Related resources

Check out more resources provided by Chainalysis that perfectly complement this episode of the Public Key.

  • Article: From Industrial-Scale Scam Centers, Trafficking Victims Are Being Forced to Steal Billions
  • Report: The Chainalysis 2022 Crypto Crime Report
  • Report: The Chainalysis State of Web3 Report
  • Blog: OFAC Sanctions Popular Ethereum Mixer Tornado Cash for Laundering Crypto Stolen by North Korea’s Lazarus Group
  • Blog: Public Sector Survey Preview: Chainalysis 2022 State of Cryptocurrency Investigations

Speakers on today’s episode

  • Ian Andrews * Host * (Chief Marketing Officer, Chainalysis) 
  • Alastair McCready (Southeast Asia Editor, Vice World News)

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