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Third 'virtual kidnap' of year

Vancouver Police are looking into the third reported "virtual kidnapping" case of 2018 and are warning the public to be vigilant. 

These types of "kidnappings" are actually elaborate extortion schemes, involving scammers faking kidnappings of loved ones and demanding ransom for their release.

In this most recent case, a woman in her early 20s studying in Vancouver on a student visa from Mainland China received a call from someone who identified himself as a Chinese police officer. The phone number appeared to be an actual Chinese police number, a method fraudsters call "spoofing."

The woman believed she had been implicated in a money laundering investigation in China, and was told she needed to transfer money to China to pay court costs. She did, sending money through a Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine. 

The suspects then continued to threaten the woman, saying they would arrest her unless she paid more money and sent compromising photos to them. These were then sent to her family in China, intended to look like proof she had been kidnapped. 

Her family paid the demanded ransom.

"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," said Sgt. Jason Robillard.

"We want to remind all foreign students that 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."

The police believe the perpetrators are not in Canada, and have not discovered how victims are being chosen. The VPD's Major Crime Section is working with Chinese officials and other agencies.

This is the third such report of 2018, along with two other reports of attempted virtual kidnappings. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 604-717-3679 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.



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