Victoria, BC – Investigators are warning the public, specifically members of our Chinese community, after an increase in reports of “virtual kidnapping.”
On Sunday, April 18th, Patrol officers were called to the 100-block of Harbour Road for a report of a suspicious circumstance involving a woman. Officers spoke with the woman and learned that she had been victimized by a “virtual kidnapping” scam. Six days earlier, the woman was contacted by a Mandarin-speaking person who claimed to be the Chinese police. The woman was convinced that she needed to send money and other personal details to the scammer in order to protect her family at home in China. The scammer then used these personal details to convince the woman’s family in China that she was being held for ransom. Thankfully, the scam was interrupted before any money was transferred to the scammer.
This incident serves as a reminder of this “virtual kidnapping” scam, which targets the Chinese community.
What is a “virtual kidnapping”?
The perpetrators of these crimes often target people from mainland China who are in their early 20s and are in Canada studying on a student visa. The victim receives a phone call in the form of a recorded message in Mandarin or Cantonese, often from a number that appears to be from the Chinese Consulate or another Chinese authority. If the victim responds to the message they are then informed that there is either a warrant for their arrest in China, or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation. As part of the extortion, the scammer eventually convinces the victim to make fake videos or send photographs which indicate that he or she has been kidnapped or is the victim of a crime.
These videos and photographs are then sent to the victim’s family members, who are, in turn, extorted for money. The victim is then told to go to a motel or a short-term rental to hide from Canadian police.
Major Crime Unit Detectives have investigated several virtual kidnapping files. In addition to the costs of police resources utilized in these files, they carry an emotional cost to the victims and their families. The perpetrators’ ultimate goals are financial, and in at least one file, significant amounts of money have been extorted from worried families.
What can you do?
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the Chinese Consulate or the Chinese police who ask you to participate in a similar occurrence, you are asked to call our non-emergency line at (250) 995-7654, or your local police.
Speak with students and visitors in your 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.
- The Chinese police or government cannot arrest you 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 (250) 995-7654 for assistance (even if they tell you not to).
- The Victoria Police Department is here to help you. If you feel unsafe or threatened, please call 911.