Chinese students being targeted to fake kidnapping in Australia
Chinese students in Australia are being blackmailed by gangs to fake their kidnapping, coercing the relatives of the students to pay huge amounts of money to the scammers.
In one case, the father of a 22-year-old Chinese student in Sydney handed over a more than $1.4 million after being sent a video of his daughter bound in an unknown location. This year alone, eight such ‘virtual kidnappings’ have been reported.
The Chinese students were being targeted as they seem vulnerable, living away in an unfamiliar environment, said the New South Wales police.
The scammers call random numbers and talk in Mandarin, and while the Australians who don't understand Chinese typically hang up, international Chinese students respond in Mandarin. Then, the scammers claim to be a Chinese authority, such as a member of the Chinese embassy or police and convince the victim they have been implicated in a crime in China, warn the victim they face extradition to China to face criminal charges in court or even threaten their families with criminal sanctions if they don't cooperate.
Technology is often used to so that their actual location of host number isn’t tracked and it looks like the call is coming from actual Chinese authorities. If victims look up the caller’s phone number online, it will match the number of Chinese police or the embassy, said Dr Lennon Chang, a senior lecturer in Criminology at Australia’s Monash University. The victims are then threatened or coerced into transferring money into offshore bank accounts.
In the other scenario, victims are convinced to fake their kidnappings—the victims are asked to stop communication with their friends and family. The ‘kidnappers’ often rent a hotel room for their protection and safety. Victims are made to photograph themselves tied up and blindfolded that are then sent to the victim’s family overseas.
The victims are later reluctant to report the incident to the police as they are ashamed. NSW police said they are working with the state government and Chinese Embassy in Australia to investigate and warn the community of these scams.
Authorities are urging students and other any potential victims to report such calls to their universities, embassies, or local police, and not to cede to the callers' demands.