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Australia’s Chinese Students Target of Virtual Kidnapping Crime

July 27, 2020, 04.17 PM

SYDNEY, – Australian police warn Chinese students in the country of an elaborate “virtual kidnapping” scheme that has netted millions of US dollars in ransoms.

The virtual kidnapping tactic extorts money from friends and relatives of Chinese students in Australia.

The findings were discovered after a series of transnational scams were reported.

Con artists of the virtual kidnapping act have earned millions of dollars by scaring Chinese students in Australia into faking their own kidnappings.

The scammers typically call speaking in Mandarin and claiming to be from the Chinese embassy, police, or consulate.

The scammers would then say the victim is accused of a crime in China or falsely state that their identity has been stolen before threatening them with deportation or arrest unless a fee is paid, according to Australian police.

The fraudsters then continue to threaten the victim, often over encrypted message services, until they transfer large sums into offshore bank accounts.

In some cases, victims were told to cease contact with friends and relatives, then make videos of themselves tied up and blindfolded with the conmen using the footage to demand ransoms.

Police said at least eight cases have led to more than AUS$3 million ($2.1 million) in ransom payments this year in Australia.

Other incidents have been detected elsewhere around the world, and Australian police said the scams had been "developed considerably over the last decade by transnational organized crime syndicates".

Victims are "traumatized by what has occurred, believing they have placed themselves, and their loved ones, in real danger", New South Wales Police assistant commissioner Peter Thurtell said.

Over 1,000 "Chinese authority" scams were recorded last year by Australia's consumer watchdog.

Exiled Chinese dissidents and members of persecuted ethnic groups have also reported harassment from Chinese authorities, including threatening phone calls.

Chinese officials said no authority would contact students on their mobile to demand money.

The warning comes as the university sector attempts to lure back lucrative international students online and prepare for any possible relaxation of virus travel restrictions.


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