RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond FBI is warning residents to be wary of cryptocurrency scams — because once money is stolen in these schemes, it’s unlikely to ever be recovered.

Stanley M. Meador, head of the Richmond FBI field office, issued a warning about the so-called “pig-butchering” scam, a “relatively new fraud scheme” that has already made headlines in Virginia.

The unique aspect of the “pig-butchering” scam is that fraudsters initiate it by contacting the victim through social media on the pretext of an unrelated social connection, building trust over time until they can present an “investment opportunity.”

Then, the scammer directs the victim to a fake website that imitates a cryptocurrency exchange, encouraging them to set up an account — all the while pocketing the money or cryptocurrency deposited.

Several of those websites were seized by federal agents last November after five victims, including a Richmond resident, lost over $10 million.

But there’s one other thing that distinguishes crypto scams from traditional fraud.

“Victims of Cryptocurrency Investment Fraud Schemes should be aware they will not see a recovery of their cryptocurrency losses,” Meador wrote.

Instead, Meador urged Virginia residents to be wary of anyone offering high returns for little effort, warning that in some get-rich-quick schemes, residents could be used “as a money mule to help launder funds within their criminal enterprises.”

Among the tips Meador shared for spotting scams was to pay close attention to domain names, which can attempt to closely impersonate legitimate sites, to be wary of anyone offering goods at a discount that seems “too good to be true” and to ignore links sent in unsolicited emails.

If you believe you’ve fallen victim to a cryptocurrency scam — or any other fraudulent scheme — you can report it to the FBI’s internet crimes complaint site or to the Richmond Field Office at (804) 261-1044.