Reston firm warns about a texting scam called ‘Pig Butchering’

Phone call scams have morphed over the years into text message scams. A recent report said Americans receive an average of 16.9 spam texts every month.

One of the newest ones has earned the name “Pig Butchering.”

“It is the idea of finding a target, fattening up the target, building trust with them, and then taking advantage of them and slaughtering the pig,” said John Haraburda, director of product management at Reston-based telecom networks management firm Transaction Network Services.

The text likely shows up as a number you may not recognize, but seems like an innocuous message.

“Usually these messages start with simple things like ‘oh sorry, I’m running late,’ or just ‘hi.’ It is a simple introduction like that. And if you respond, it opens up the door for them to then introduce themselves and say ‘oh, I’m sorry. But let me ask you a question. Let me ask you a favor,'” Haraburda said.

Once a victim feels as if they’ve made a new friend, or even a new potential romantic interest, the scammer exploits that trust and moves in for the butchering, asking for a money transfer or a crypto investment for example.

Haraburda said it is surprising how many people, even savvy ones, get taken by this relationship-building scam.

“I think people are willing to open up and say ‘OK, no trouble. You contacted me with the wrong number,’ but when you start getting asked for personal information trying to establish a relationship, that’s where the risk alert flag should be going off in your head,” he said.

TNS provides risk-notification services for more than 100 service providers in the U.S. and Canada. It has a crowdsourced site,, for reporting scams or checking numbers to see if they are known fraudsters.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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