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International students in Australia have been warned to steer clear of those claiming to be Chinese officials following a series of sophisticated ‘virtual kidnapping’ scams.

Three incidents of the scam have been reported in NSW  in October alone, with police urging any victim to come forward to police and aid in investigations.

Scammers are managing to convince some students they may have either committed a crime in China or that their identity has been stolen.

They are told they must pay a fine or face arrest and deportation.

Some are tricked into sending money directly into the scammer’s accounts, while others are coerced into faking their own kidnappings.

Police have urged the public, especially Chinese international students, to be weary of ‘virtual kidnapping’ scams that attempt to extort their families of large ‘ransom’ payments

The victims are often forced to cut all contact with their families before renting a room and sending photos of them tied up and blindfolded. 

The fraudster then sends photos to their relatives living back home where they demand payment in return for the release of their loved one. 

NSW Police believe victims are often approached by the scammers who claim to be a representative from a Chinese authority.

The scammers are able to hide their location and identity through the use of encrypted messaging services such as Skype, WeChat and WhatsApp.

One image shows a victim bound in a shower with red-coloured stains on the rope and his feet.

Another image shows a woman lying on her side with her hands behind her back with cash, a knife and what appears to be identification cards on the floor in front of her.

After not hearing from their relative, the scammers then makes contact with the families, sending the posed images and demanding large ransom payments for their ‘release’.

In one instance, the family of a 23-year-old woman paid about $288,000 to an offshore account in ransom only for her to be found shortly after on Hunter Street in Sydney by NSW Police on October 15.

Just two days prior, police attended to a residence in Sydney’s Zetland where a 23-year-old man was in contact with scammers pretending to be Chinese officials.

Police allege the scammers had told the man to ask his family for $500,000AUD in order to delay his arrest for alleged fraud charges in China.

The victims of the scam are often approached by people posing as Chinese officials claiming they have committed a crime in China and must pay a fine to avoid arrest

In an attempt to pay the fine, the victims are coerced into taking images of themselves appearing to be kidnapped in order to extort as much money as possible for their ‘release’

Detective Superintendent Joseph Doueihi, Commander of the Robbery and Serious Crime Squad, said the scams had become increasingly elaborate in the past decade.

‘In some cases, we’re seeing evidence of the scammers talking to their victim for months on end,’ Det Supt Doueihi said.

‘We’ve also seen a couple of cases where the victim has eventually been coerced into then becoming the perpetrator and acting as a Chinese official to scam more students.’

Police from the Surry Hills Area Command were contacted by a 20-year-old man on October 4 reporting he had been a victim of a virtual kidnapping.

He was first contacted by the scammers who alleged he had committed a number of financial frauds in China. 

He was coerced to meet with two men posing as Chinese Police in August, who allegedly kept him handcuffed for two hours.

Police allege that after the man’s family refused to pay $220,000 to the scammers, he was forced to serve ‘official documents’ on behalf of Shanghai Police to four addresses in Sydney, Adelaide and Victoria.

It is believed the addresses are of those the fraudsters had identified as future targets of the scam.

Police had warned the public of the scams in May, after a 17-year-old boy was targeted by fraudsters and coerced into requesting $20,000 from his family. 

NSW Police have urged the community to reach out to the Chinese consulate and to contact police if approached by anyone claiming to be a Chinese official

Det Supt Doueihi urged the public, especially international students, to be weary of anyone contacting them claiming to be a Chinese official. 

‘While we are working with our law enforcement counterparts to investigate the origins of these scams, we are urging the community to heed our warnings not to respond to the caller’s demands,’ Det Supt Doueihi said.

‘If you are ever on the receiving end of similar correspondence, the best thing to do is contact the Chinese Consulate to verify the claims, as well as report the matter to the NSW Police Force.

‘We want to remind victims there is nothing to be ashamed of coming to the police, as we continue to pursue every investigative avenue available to us to put an end to these types of scams.’

Incidents of virtual kidnapping have been reported across Australia and internationally, with some cases netting scammers in excess of $1millionAUD.

It is believed incidents of virtual kidnappings have increased since the return of Chinese student to Australia following covid-19 restrictions.

More than 40,000 international students are expected to arrive in Australia this year after the Chinese Government banned online studies at international universities.

In September 2019, there were 165,149 Chinese students in Australia – which plunged during Covid to just 78,234 exactly three years later. 

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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