How Chinese students in Australia are falling victim to a ‘virtual’ kidnapping scheme which has forced their terrified families to hand over more than $3million in ransom payments
- Eight Chinese students in Sydney fell for the elaborate ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam
- Ransom payments between $20,000 to $2million were paid to the scammers
- The students were convinced to fake abduction to coerce family out of money
- NSW Police and Chinese government are working to warn community about it
International students have fallen victim to a ‘virtual’ kidnapping scheme which has cost their families more than $3million in ransom payments.
Eight Chinese students living in Sydney were convinced to fake their own abductions and demand money from their family for their ‘safe release’.
Ransom payments ranging between $20,000 to $2million have been paid this year alone.
NSW Police is working alongside the Chinese government to track down the gangs responsible.
International students have fallen victim to a ‘virtual’ kidnapping scheme robbing their families of more than $3 million in ransom payments (one of the fake abduction pictures)
Over eight instances this year, ransom payments ranging between $20,000 to $2 million have been paid to the scammers
Head of the NSW Robbery and Serious Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Grant Taylor, said criminals contact their victims and convince them to fake their own abductions.
‘It almost exclusively involves someone speaking in Mandarin claiming to be a representative of Chinese authority, such as the Chinese Embassy, consulate or police and convinces them they have been implicated in a crime in China and they must make payments to avoid being deported, their visa cancelled or other threats of possible arrest,’ he said, The Daily Telegraph reported.
‘The scenarios are varied but the motive is to instil fear in the victim that they face the prospect of having to return home and abandon their education.’
Victims are convinced to book themselves into a hotel before sending a message to their families saying they have been kidnapped.
They are then told not to use social media or their phone after sending the message.
The victim is told to send a picture to their parents of them tied up and blindfolded, or alternatively a voice recording of them begging for help.
Eight Chinese students living in Sydney have been convinced to fake their own abductions (pictured) and demand ransom payments from their family for their ‘safe release’
Family members of the victims are then ordered to transfer large sums of money into unknown bank accounts.
When they are successful, they coerce victims into giving them more money as they continue the extortion.
Supt Taylor said the victim is never in physical danger as the entire scam is operated over the phone through encrypted applications such as WeChat or WhatsApp.
‘We normally are notified because the victims literally have no money left or they may confide in another member of the community who conveys to them that it is most likely a hoax and they should contact police,’ he said.
NSW Police is working alongside the Chinese government in an attempt to warn the community of the sophisticated scheme known as ‘virtual kidnapping’ (pictured)
NSW Police discovered one case this year where a victim had paid scammers $2 million because they thought their daughter was kidnapped.
State Crime Command Director, Detective Chief Superintendent Darren Bennett, said officers are working with the Chinese Consulate in Sydney to spread the warning.
Det-Chief Supt Bennett said scammers are purposely targeting vulnerable members of the Chinese-Australian community.
In May the Australian Federal Police first warned the public about the complex international scam.
The scams rely on victims maintaining contact with the scammers as ongoing contact makes it seem legitimate.