In a global extortion racket, Chinese students in Australia are being targeted in fake kidnapping phone scams, fooling families for millions of dollars in ransoms. A total 1,172 reports of “Chinese authority” scams were recorded across Australia last year, with a total loss in excess of $2 million.
Police in New South Wales said that this year alone there have been at least eight reported cases of this “virtual kidnappings”. The Australian Federal Police said in May that at least 25 cases of kidnapping extortion scams were under investigation. These scams generally targeted Chinese students across the country.
The scams are deceiving families, and they tend to do this in the same old-fashioned way: a fraudulent caller who pretends to be a Chinese government authority—convinces the victim of facing legal action in China. They harass them saying they could be punished by arrest or deportation, reported Vice.
The fraudsters then persuade the victim to transfer money to offshore bank accounts. Sometimes, they make them fake their own kidnapping. This is so that they could then use the photos as “evidence” to be send to their families in China, who are then tortured to pay ransoms for the victim’s “safe release”.
The victimized Chinese students have been compelled to cutoff phone and social media contacts, vacate their lodging, and send mocked-up photos of them tied up. They even are urged to send messages to their families pleading for ransom money.
This crime is becoming frequent. This year alone, fraudsters involved in the scam have obtained $3.2 million (AUD) in ransom payments. The amounts asked range between $20,000 and $500,000. According to a report a family sent $2 million for the release of their daughter.
“The victims of virtual kidnappings we have engaged are traumatised by what has occurred, believing they have placed themselves, and their loved ones, in real danger. In these instances, it is often friends and family that encourage victims to come forward and report the crime to police, as victims feel embarrassed or ashamed by what has transpired,” said Peter Thurtell, NSW Police’s Assistant Commissioner.
Darren Bennett, NSW’s Detective Chief Superintendent asserted that these so-called “virtual kidnappings” have become much more prolific in the last 10 years.
“While these phone calls appear to be random in nature, these scammers seem to be targeting vulnerable members of the Chinese-Australian community,” he said. “NSW Police have been assured from the Chinese Consulate-General in Sydney that no person claiming to be from a Chinese authority such as police, procuratorates or the courts will contact a student on their mobile phone and demand monies to be paid or transferred.”
If you are wondering about the popularity of this practice then a whopping total of 1,172 reports of “Chinese authority” scams were recorded across Australia last year. The total loss these scams caused exceeded $2 million.