Vancouver Police are investigating the third virtual kidnapping case reported this year and are once again warning the public about the elaborate extortion schemes.
According to a VPD release, the most recent case involved a young woman in her early 20s from Mainland China, who was studying in Canada on a student visa. The woman received a call from someone pretending to be a Chinese police officer and appeared to come from an actual Chinese police phone number.
Police say this is a common practice with fraudsters known as “spoofing.”
The fraudsters convinced the woman that she was implicated in a money laundering investigation in China and she had to transfer Chinese funds for police and court costs.
The woman sent the money through a Bitcoin ATM. The suspects continued to threaten that she would be arrested unless she paid more money. They convinced her to send them “compromising pictures” which were then sent to her family back home in China using the WeChat app.
The suspects made ransom demands to make it look like the woman was kidnapped and her family paid the amount, clearing whatever money the woman had left to pay. Police say the victim was physically unharmed.
The suspects are not believed to be in Canada and police said it remains unclear how they choose their victims.
“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 VPD Sgt. Jason Robillard. “We want to remind all foreign students that the 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.”
So far in 2018, the VPD has received three reports of virtual kidnapping, and two reports of attempted virtual kidnapping.
Authorities believe there are more incidents that have not been reported. Anyone with anyone with information about these crimes to call the VPD Major Crime Section at 604-717-3679 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.