by Rochelle Keyhan, CEO and John Bridge, Board Member

Financial Grooming is a financial scam that involves extensive contact used to gain trust before ultimately stealing the victim’s investments. It utilizes a combination of emotional manipulation via friendship or romance with investment scheming, successfully defrauding people of all of their assets.

Is this crime violent? There are victims on both sides of this criminal activity — trafficking victims are held in isolation, against their will, and forced using violence and coercion, to continue the fraud scripts. The people they are defrauding are gradually convinced to invest all of their assets, only to realize those assets were stolen by the fraudsters. The definition of violence within the context of complete financial ruin is a layer to consider on the side of the fraud victims. Some victims have experienced mental health crises once they were aware of the fraud, many left financially insecure and unable to replenish their lost assets.

And then the traditional definition of violence (at least criminally) is found on the fraud side, where the people forced to perpetuate the defrauding activity for their traffickers are experiencing violent and coercive human trafficking. Financial Grooming trafficking victims are often held in squalor while forced to recruit and groom victims, punished with extreme physical violence or threats to their families when they don’t deliver. As this crime continues to grow in scope, in order to defraud more victims the traffickers require a corresponding increase in their trafficking operations and number of victims as well.

Learn more about this crime with our informational flyer below.

Rebranding to be victim-centered and trauma-informed

Our language choices are important. The previous framing of this crime was to call it pig-butchering. The motivation of that phrase being to draw a sensationalized parallel between the process of “fattening up” a pig before slaughtering it, and the financial grooming criminal’s behavior of extracting as much profit from their victims before cutting them off.

The urge to use sensational or dramatically descriptive labels for types of crime has to be balanced across the humanization of victims of those crimes. Equating a victim to a pig, an animal to be slaughtered, or something gluttonous before death, is NOT finding that balance. Nor is it victim-centered, instead adding to the pain of the scam experienced in crypto-romance scams that are labeled as “pig-butchering”. We need to refocus on the exploiter/criminal actor, and use terms that emphasize their malice. Or stick to the descriptive terms we’ve been using — crypto-romance.

This is because (1) in order for victims to be given support and have their cases taken seriously, they need to be humanized and talked about and treated like they matter at the basic human level, and (2) in order for us to be motivated to identify and stop the exploiters/criminals, their behavior needs to be abhorrent to us, something we’re unwilling to stand for. “Pig-butchering” normalizes what the criminals are doing, and dehumanizes/stigmatizes the victim. It’s not having the desired effect of “rallying outrage” against the crime.

Collective Liberty’s Human Trafficking Fusion Center, in collaboration with other anti-money laundering, financial crimes, and criminal justice partners at The Knoble and on our board of directors is working with the financial crimes field to rebrand “Pig Butchering” to “Financial Grooming”. This more accurately depicts the crime, and focuses on offender behavior while avoiding dehumanizing the victim.

Please join us in educating the communities connected to financial crimes, to inspire a more trauma-informed way of talking about this crime. Share this information with people in your lives to both inform them of this potential fraud to avoid, and also to inspire better language choices when talking about violent crimes against people.

2 comments on “Is Financial Grooming (formerly Pig Butchering) a violent crime?

  1. We agree that the words we use about these crimes matter, but your changing the name of pig butchering to a nonsensical name is a great disservice to both victims and professionals. We continue to use the Pig Butchering term, not because it is kind, but because it is descriptive and reflective of the term commonly used now by all parties, Financial Grooming is nonsensical because ALL relationship scams involve grooming, so instead of disambiguous it makes your term more ambiguous. We have been the leader in research of these crime for the last decade. Perhaps communication with others would be useful in your attempt.

    We would welcome a conversation to review term usage. To learn more about terms view:

    SCARS //

    1. Hi there! As you can see in the flyer, we worked with other agencies on this effort. We also coordinated input with multiple financial crimes investigators, prosecutors of financial grooming scam cases, and solicited feedback from survivors and victim-advocates. Perhaps you might also benefit from increasing exposure to other perspectives, including those from victims and survivors, as well as lay people who are most often the victim of these crimes.

      Hopefully from this blog you can see that we don’t believe equating victims to animals for slaughter is trauma-informed, nor does it make clear what the crime is to anyone outside your niche. “I was pig-butchered”, “I was the victim of pig-butchering” — is not descriptive, nor is it logical to the mainstream. It is still a niche term, and as we mainstream the phenomenon, it should be rebranded if we want potential victims to even comprehend the term and its potential impact on their lives. We would love to discuss alternative terms, ones you might find more accurate while also honoring the humanity of the victims!

Leave a Reply