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Police issue warning after North Van man targeted in fake kidnapping scam

Scammers spoofed wife’s cellphone number and demanded a ransom be paid or the woman would be harmed.
Police in North Vancouver are warning of a fake kidnapping scam and giving tips on how to avoid falling prey to one. |Times Colonist photo

The North Vancouver RCMP are issuing a warning about a fake kidnapping scam after one local man endured a terrifying evening believing his wife was being harmed.

Police said the North Vancouver man was at home when he received a phone call around 8 p.m. Tuesday evening from someone claiming that he had kidnapped the man’s wife.

The caller, who was speaking Korean, demanded a ransom of $7,000 be paid through an etransfer or the man’s wife would be harmed.

A woman could be heard in the background of the call, leading the husband to believe that kidnappers really had grabbed his wife.

Somehow the scammers had also managed to spoof the wife’s phone number to make it look like the call was coming from her cellphone, which led to further panic.

“He was very frightened, and he genuinely thought that his wife was being kidnapped,” said Const. Mansoor Sahek, spokesman for North Vancouver RCMP.

After being warned not to contact family, friends or police, the husband initially tried to send money to the phony "kidnappers" as requested, but was unable to etransfer the amount demanded.

Fearing for his wife’s safety, he then called police.

North Vancouver RCMP quickly alerted their emergency response team and serious crimes unit, said Sahek.

Fortunately while the police response was gearing up, the wife – who had been at a nearby friend’s house and was unaware of what was happening – was located and came home, said Sahek.

Sahek said it appears the call was a scam and that the man was likely targeted.

It’s unclear how the scammers got the wife’s phone number, he said.

Similar scams in the past – which have happened in Coquitlam and Vancouver – have often targeted people of Chinese or other Asian backgrounds, he said.

Sahek said the couple – in their 30s – are shaken up but otherwise unharmed.

What to do if you receive a call:

• Do not comply with the caller’s demands.

• Hang up the phone and report the incident to your local police.

• Never give out personal information over the telephone.

• Warn your loved ones about this elaborate fraud.

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