Richmond residents are being contacted by a “virtual kidnapping scheme” that appears to target Chinese students studying in Metro Vancouver.
Amanda Sun, a Richmond resident studying at Simon Fraser University, told the Richmond News that two of her friends were recently contacted by someone who claimed to be an officer from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver.
“They told my friends their passports had expired and that they couldn’t go back to China,” said Sun.
“My friends didn’t believe them and hung up before they continued.”
The RCMP has received similar reports and warned that “six Lower Mainland incidents reported appear to be targeted at female Chinese nationals attending schools in the Greater Vancouver area.”
The fraud group contacts both the students in B.C. and their families in China, pretending to be Chinese officials and telling families that the students were kidnapped before demanding a ransom.
The RCMP said that investigations are still ongoing and it is not clear yet how the fraud group gets the contact details of the students and their parents. They are looking into any commonalities between victims.
Sun said she had been alarmed about the scam and informed her parents, who are in China right now.
However, she is not surprised that Chinese students have become the targets for the fraud group.
“Students coming to Canada are far away from their families and friends and their support system is quite weak, especially those students who came here at a very young age,” she said.
“Also, the distance and time difference makes it difficult for students to communicate with their families in time.”
The kidnapping of a Chinese student in the U.S. last month has concerned many Chinese parents, increasing the likelihood they will believe fraudsters about the kidnapping of their kids, according to Sun.
She adds the fraud scheme doesn’t exclusively target female students, since a male friend of hers was contacted as well. Sun advises international students to be cautious and to contact their family members on a regular basis.