Victoria police are warning the public to be aware of an extortion scheme known as “virtual kidnapping” that targeted an exchange student and her family.
According to police, a young woman who is in exchange student living in Victoria was reported missing by her roommate during the evening on May 14. Evidence pointed to the young woman being held against her will.
Police were able to find the young woman that night and said she was physically unharmed and appeared to have been victimized, along with her family, in a virtual kidnapping. The suspects were able to take a significant amount of money from the family before police discovered the extortion.
Police said members of the Chinese community, in particular, should be aware of the scheme as the perpetrators often target young woman in their early 20s who are from mainland China and are in Canada studying on a student visa. The victim will receive a phone call, often from a number that appears to be from the Chinese consulate. She then will be told there is either a warrant for her arrest in China or that police in China need her help with an investigation.
VicPD said the suspects eventually convince to make fake videos indicating she has been kidnapped or is the victim of a crime. The videos are then sent to the victim’s family members who are extorted for money. The victim is told to go to a motel or a short-term rental to hide from police in Canada.
Anyone who is contacted by someone claiming to be from the Chinese consulate or police in China and asked to participate in a similar occurrence is asked to call VicPD’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 or local police.
Police are also people to speak to students and visitors in the community from mainland China about these extortions and encourage them to contact police if they feel unsafe or are contacted by people claiming to be the Chinese authorities who are asking them to pretend to be the victim of a crime.
Victoria police have also shared further tips about “virtual kidnapping”:
- Police in China or the Chinese government cannot arrest people in Canada
- All policing-related contact from the Chinese government will be through local police
- Canadian or Chinese authorities will not ask you to destroy a phone or to take photos or videos of yourself pretending to be the victim of a crime.
- If you are contacted by someone claiming to be the Chinese police and they ask you to be of assist and investigation by pretending to be the victim of a crime, call police for assistance even if they tell you not to.
- If you feel unsafe or threatened, call 911 or Victoria police’s non-emergency line at 250-995-7654