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Thousands of Crypto Scammers are Enslaved by Human-Trafficking Gangsters, Says Bloomberg Reporter – Slashdot

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The Almighty Buck

A Bloomberg investigative reporter wrote a new book titled Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall. This week Bloomberg published an excerpt that begins when the reporter received a flirtatious text message from a woman named Vicky Ho for a scam that’s called “pig butchering“.

“Vicky’s random text had found its way to pretty much exactly the wrong target. I’d been investigating the crypto bubble for more than a year…”
After a day, Vicky revealed her true love language: Bitcoin price data. She started sending me charts. She told me she’d figured out how to predict market fluctuations and make quick gains of 20% or more. The screenshots she shared showed that during that week alone she’d made $18,600 on one trade, $4,320 on another and $3,600 on a third… For days, she went on chatting without asking for me to send any money. I was supposed to be the mark, but I had to work her to con me…. Vicky sent me a link to download an app called ZBXS. It looked pretty much like other crypto-exchange apps. “New safe and stable trading market,” a banner read at the top. Then Vicky gave me some instructions. They involved buying one cryptocurrency using another crypto-exchange app, then transferring the crypto to ZBXS’s deposit address on the blockchain, a 42-character string of letters and numbers…

People around the world really were losing huge sums of money to the con. A project finance lawyer in Boston with terminal cancer handed over $2.5 million. A divorced mother of three in St. Louis was defrauded of $5 million. And the victims I spoke to all told me they’d been told to use Tether, the same coin Vicky suggested to me. Rich Sanders, the lead investigator at CipherBlade, a crypto-tracing firm, said that at least $10 billion had been lost to crypto romance scams.

The huge sums involved weren’t the most shocking part. I learned that whoever was posing as Vicky was likely a victim as well — of human trafficking. Most “pig-butchering” operations were orchestrated by Chinese gangsters based in Cambodia or Myanmar. They’d lure young people from across Southeast Asia to move abroad with the promise of well-paying jobs in customer service or online gambling. Then, when the workers arrived, they’d be held captive and forced into a criminal racket. Thousands have been tricked this way. Entire office towers are filled with floor after floor of people sending spam messages around the clock, under threat of torture or death.

With the assistance of translators, I started video chatting with people who’d escaped…

I’d heard that [southwestern Cambodia’s giant building complex] Chinatown alone held as many as 6,000 captive workers like “Vicky Ho.”
Two of the workers interviewed “said they’d seen workers murdered.” And another worker said Tether was used specifically because “It’s more safe. We are afraid people will track us… It’s untraceable.”

The reporter’s conclusion? “It was hard to see how this slave complex could exist without cryptocurrency.”

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