Secret Service Sees ‘a Ton’ of Pig Butchering Scams: Reddit AMA

In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, REACT and the USSS praised blockchain technology

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Velishchuk Yevhen/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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The US Secret Service San Francisco Field Office and the Bay Area Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit on Monday, May 15. 

According to its post, the REACT team specializes in “keeping cryptocurrency and its users safe” in San Francisco. The team is a mixture of analysts and special agents. 

“Education is one of the primary goals at both USSS and REACT,” the USSS explained when asked by Redditors why the Secret Service would host an AMA.

Both teams have extensive backgrounds in tracking and apprehending individuals who have committed cryptocurrency scams, listing a Russian hacker who was extradited to the US as well as multiple hackers arrested for SIM-swapping attacks.

The USSS said the scam they come across the most is called pig butchering, where victims are targeted on social media, dating sites or online messaging platforms. The hacker pretends to develop a relationship with the victim — either in a friendly or romantic way — and then exploits them.

“In San Francisco specifically, we tend to focus on victim-based cases, meaning those where there’s an individual(s) or company that’s been affected. These days we see a ton of pig butchering investment scams and have devoted resources to help those victims,” the USSS said.

When investigating a crypto crime, REACT quickly assesses the “stolen funds by tracing the victim’s initial transfer out of an exchange or wallet to a suspect, and attempt to effect a seizure,” according to the 2023 Crypto Crime Report from Chainalysis. 

“When tracing funds during investigations, the agency doesn’t dwell on pass-through wallets; it targets those containing funds that it can directly attribute to victims as California law states that law enforcement can only seize funds that meet that criteria,” the report said.

Crypto investigations also “vary in a lot of ways to fiat investigations, both in good ways and bad ways, but most notable is that crypto transactions are irreversible and immutable.”

And the victims in the bulk of the cases the USSS and REACT are investigating have lost over $500,000.

In 2022, Chainalysis found that “illicit transaction volume rose for the second consecutive year, hitting an all-time high of $20.6 billion.”

“We are involved with the crypto investigations from beginning to end (victim reports the crime, we investigate it, prosecute it, etc.). We work in collaboration with other agencies as the need arises, but each case is different,” the USSS said.

The USSS suggested that users “use cash” if they don’t want any transactions tracked, and the REACT team praised blockchain technology.

“The blockchain provides us with an amazing opportunity to track the flow of money. It’s a continuous ledger that is unchangeable and transparent,” REACT said.

The USSS and REACT took a lighthearted approach to the AMA. When asked if they would ever consider releasing a token or memecoin, the USSS said it created and minted its own NFT collection, which is still available on OpenSea.


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