In Romance Scams, a New Technique Emerges

With 'pig butchering,' bank accounts of victims are fattened before being emptied
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
In Romance Scams, a New Technique Emerges
   (Getty/Tero Vesalainen)

You know from the get-go you're in for an interesting read: "It's a tale as old as Tinder: Girl meets Boy. Boy convinces Girl to hand over a large chunk of cash. Boy ghosts Girl." That's how David Voreacos and Francesco Maglione begin their tale at Bloomberg of an online romance scam that cost one woman a staggering $8 million. And while romance scams are nothing new these days—the FBI says they cost victims a collective $956 million in 2021, up 60% from the previous year—the story introduces what for many will be a new phrase in the lexicon of such schemes: "pig butchering." It refers to scammers' technique of fattening up a victim's bank account before draining it, the better to earn their confidence. This particular story involves 25-year-old Divya Gadasalli of Texas, whose father's death in 2015 left the family flush with cash.

Gadasalli struck up a Tinder relationship with a man known as "Jerry Bulasa," who promised to make her even richer through crypto investing. (It's possible he sought her out, thanks to media attention about her father, who was murdered.) She began wiring five- and six-figure amounts to accounts as directed by Bulasa, and her pile of money appeared to grow. "A key element that gave her comfort with the scheme ... was that she was able to withdraw her 'profits' in real cash as soon as they came in, at least at first," write the authors. Eventually, though, after she'd put in millions more, she was blocked from further withdrawals. It soon became clear the trading platform she was using was bogus, as was Bulasa, whom she never met in person. Read the full story, which details Gadasalli's ongoing efforts to get her money back and track down her scammer. (More Longform stories.)

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