Vancouver police are re-issuing its warning to the public after a third case of virtual kidnapping, this time targeting a young woman from Mainland China.
Police say a woman in her 20s, studying in Canada on a student visa, recently received a call from someone pretending to be a Chinese police officer. Through the common fraud practise called ‘spoofing’ the call even appeared to come from a Chinese police phone number, police said in a news release Wednesday.
The woman was them convinced to pay money to the scammers through a bitcoin ATM, after being told she had been implicated in a money laundering investigation in China and was required to transfer Chinese funds for police and court costs.
But the scam didn’t end there.
Police said the suspects continued to threaten her with an arrest unless she paid additional money, and convinced her to provide them with compromising photos, which were sent to her family in China via communication app “WeChat.”
Meanwhile, police said the scammers made it appear as though the woman has been kidnapped.
The woman was physically unharmed, police said, but her family did pay the ransom. Police did not confirm the total amount lost through the scam.
“These deplorable crimes are having a huge impact on these young, trusting students, and their families. We need to make sure people are aware to prevent them from continuing,” Sgt. Jason Robillard said in a news release.
“We want to remind all foreign students that the Chinese police will not arrest you in Canada, and if you are confused or scared, please reach out to your local police department in Canada. We are here to help.”
Police said it remains unclear how the victims are chosen.
While it is believed that the suspects are not in Canada, investigators from the Major Crime Section continue to work with Chinese officials and other police agencies.
Police say they have received three reports of virtual kidnappings, and two reports of attempted virtual kidnappings so far this year. Investigators believe that there may be more incidents that have not yet been reported. Anyone with information about these crimes to call the police at 604-717-3679 or Crime Stoppers.