The Chinese community in Australia has been warned about a complex international “virtual kidnapping” scam, primarily targeting students from China studying in the country.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said this week that the scam involves victims being told they are allegedly implicated in crimes in China, with scammers threatening victims and forcing them to take actions to prevent their family back home from being harmed.
According to the AFP, the victims’ families in China are simultaneously “told by the scammer their family members have been kidnapped and will only be released if a large sum of money is paid.”
Scammers communicate with victims both in Australia and in China in Mandarin, falsely claiming to be Chinese government officials. Similar scams have been reported in other countries such as the United States and Canada, said the AFP.
“Reports of the scam in Australia have been shared by INTERPOL Canberra to local police across the country and will be shared with Chinese authorities,” it added.
Around a third of all international students at Australian universities, private colleges, schools and English language courses are Chinese nationals.
“Scams take advantage of people’s trust in authorities and fear of doing the wrong thing,” said the AFP. “Victims can feel an array of emotions – from helplessness and humiliation to anger and guilt – but it’s important to know you are not to blame and there is help at hand.”
The police urged those who believed their identity has been compromised to contact the national identity and cyber support service (IDCARE).