Montreal police are warning citizens to remain “vigilant” against an extortion scam that is targeting students, specifically international students from China.
The scam has claimed several victims over the past two years in Vancouver and has made its way to Montreal, according to the SPVM.
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The scam involves convincing victims that they or their loved one are in danger and it unfolds in two phases.
Victims receive an automated phone call in Mandarin that appears to come from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, claiming to be a government or police official, warning of a threat to a family member. Victims are persuaded to pay a large sum of money to be exonerated.
The victim is then manipulated into staging their own kidnapping. To save the family member – who is actually completely safe – the student is told to go into hiding and fake a kidnapping video.
Victims are asked to rent a hotel room and avoid any interaction on social media or with the police, under threat of retaliation against their family in China.
The victim remains in constant contact with the suspects. The suspects contact the victim’s family and send the video explaining that their child has been kidnapped for ransom.
Once the student’s families have the faked kidnapping video, the scammers use it to extort ransom money from their family in China.
Montreal police warn that the following signs could suggest the potential extortion scam:
- The suspects keep you on the phone for a long time and do not want you to hang up.
- You are told not to talk about the phone call to anyone.
- You are told to leave your house, work or class immediately and prepare your luggage without giving any explanation or without notifying your relatives.
Montreal police urge citizens to understand that “a police force will never require you to take action without notifying a loved one and without taking the time to seek legal advice.”
The SPVM recommends that preventatively, if a phone number appears to come from an official foreign body of government, people should always check said website before doing anything.
Anyone who receives these suspicious phone calls should not give out any personal information and should contact Montreal police immediately.