VANCOUVER – Vancouver police say a student from China has fallen victim to a so-called virtual kidnapping scheme, the third reported in the city this year.
In a virtual kidnapping, Sgt. Jason Robillard says no one is being held against their will, but the victims are contacted by suspects claiming to be Chinese police, and convinced to assist with an investigation in that country.
In the latest case, Robillard says a woman was told she was implicated in a money laundering investigation in China and was threatened with arrest unless she transferred Chinese funds to cover police and court costs.
She paid through a Bitcoin automated teller machine, but continued to be threatened unless she sent more money and provided compromising photos.
Those photos were then sent to the woman’s family members in China, who believed she had been kidnapped and they paid additional money.
Robillard wants to remind foreign students that Chinese police cannot arrest them in Canada and anyone who is frightened should contact Canadian authorities.
“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,” Robillard said in a news release.
Police believe the suspects are not in Canada and it remains unclear how their victims are chosen.
Police received 20 reports of similar extortion attempts in Vancouver in 2017.
Detectives from the city’s major crime section continue to work with Chinese officials and other police agencies to track the offenders, Robillard said.