A ‘virtual kidnapping’ is a sophisticated extortion scam that involves young victims faking their own kidnappings following phone calls from fraudsters – who then demand ransom payments for their safe release from relatives.

Reports have suggested that the scam occurs in the following way:

  • Initial contact is made through a phone call from someone usually speaking in Mandarin and claiming to be a representative from a Chinese authority, such as the Chinese Embassy, Consulate or Police.
  • The caller then convinces the victim that they have been implicated in a crime in China, or that their identity has been stolen, and that they must pay a fee to avoid legal action, arrest or deportation.
  • The victim is then threatened or coerced into transferring large amounts of money into unknown offshore bank accounts.
  • In some instances, victims are convinced to fake their own kidnappings – known as a ‘virtual kidnapping’.
  • Scammers instruct victims to cease contact with their family and friends, rent a hotel room and take photographs or video recordings that depict them bound and blindfolded. These files are then shared with the victim’s relatives overseas.
  • When the victim’s parents are unable to establish contact with their child in Australia, they send large ransom payments in exchange for their ‘release’.
  • The caller will continue to make threats and ransom demands until they are unable to obtain any further payments, often resulting in the victim’s family making contact with police.

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We have also together a list of trusted resources to learn more about the scams and report is required.

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