The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI) unit has some advice as the holiday season nears. Don't be a pig.
No, the warning has nothing to do with over-eating, starting with next week's Thanksgiving spreads.
Rather, IRS CI says crooks are reaching out on social media, typically seeking those looking for romantic partners, to get the targeted victims' help in cryptocurrency schemes.
These targets, whom the fraudsters call pigs, are convinced to invest in cryptocurrency trading platforms. But when the victims attempt to cash out, the criminals butcher the pigs by seizing their funds.
Global pig butchering schemes: IRS CI special agents are seeing pig butchering schemes pop up across the globe.
Chinese officials are cracking down on pig butchering scam mills that, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, "operate out of secretive, dystopian compounds and swindle people worldwide."
And U.S. taxpayers are currently the most targeted pig population, according to the IRS.
One scheme that IRS CI investigators identified resulted in a $2 million loss. The butchers, however, also are fine with relative bacon bits. Average losses to pig butchering schemes are hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Regardless of the number of zeroes at the end of the dollar sign, any loss to fraudsters is too much.
How to avoid the butchers: To prevent falling prey to these scams, the IRS CI's first warning is to be leery of someone on a dating website or app who urges you to invest in crypto. It is likely a scam.
Other, more specific pig butchering red flags include —
- You have an online romantic interest who asks you to send payment to them or an investment platform in cryptocurrency.
- You embark on an online romantic relationship, and your love interest guarantees profits or big returns if you invest with them.
- A romantic interest reaches out to you through an online messaging application like WhatsApp with account numbers so you can transfer funds.
- A long-lost contact or stranger sends you a message on social media.
- You are urged to send money to an investment platform that is similar but does not match the platform's official website address. This is called typo-squatting.
Let officials know: If you or someone you know is a victim of pig-butchering, please contact local law enforcement or one of CI's field offices.
The IRS CI crew is involved in the pig butcher schemes because it is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS. CI is responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft, and more. CI special agents also are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code.
The map below is a screenshot from IRS CI's 2022 annual report of its 20 field offices nationwide.
The map is on page 23 of the report, and is interactive. Once you go to the report's map page, just click on the location nearest you and you'll be directed to the report's section on that field office. There's you'll find the office's street and email addresses.
But a better move is to not get butchered.
"Cryptocurrency scammers have become more sophisticated with their schemes. It's a shame to watch people hopelessly invest their savings in crypto and earn returns on their deposits – to never see the money again," said CI Chief Jim Lee, who issued the warning in conjunction with the start of International Fraud Awareness Week, Nov. 12-18.
"We don't want additional victims to get butchered," added Lee.
Tax Felon Friday: Tax investigators, both in civil and criminal cases, are good at their job. But they'd rather we didn't give them any more work, especially when it comes to scams that rip off taxpayers.
In addition to losing money, scam victims also could find themselves facing tax charges if they make ill-advised tax moves touted by crooks. You, the taxpayer, ultimately are liable for any consequences of your tax actions.
So be careful, this approaching holiday season and year-round. Beware of any promises to save you tax dollars or get you additional tax relief that sound amazingly beneficial. They generally are just that, scams that are too good to be true.
Many of these illegal schemes and their perpetrators end up in tax (and more) trouble, earning them a spotlight in the ol' blog's weekly Tax Felon Friday feature.
You can catch up on previous tax crime posts, including those that were published long before I gave them a special designation, in the, what else, tax crimes category. You'll find this post at the top of that collection right now, so just scroll down for more.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Don't fall for tax text message scams
- ID theft scams & hacks continue in the tax world (& beyond)
- AI will be part of expansive IRS crackdown on wealthy, corporate tax evaders
🌟 Search Amazon Electronics 🌟
The text link above and image links below are affiliate ads. If you click through and then buy a product, I receive a commission.