Foreign students in B.C. targeted by “virtual kidnapping” extortion scheme

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Vancouver: Vancouver police are warning about schemes dubbed “virtual kidnappings” aimed mainly at young women from mainland China who are studying in Canada on student visas.

Sgt. Jason Robillard says two students have been targeted recently in separate and elaborate extortion schemes.

He says the victim receives a phone call, sometimes from a number that appears to be from the Chinese consulate, advising of a warrant for their arrest in China or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation.

Police say the student is persuaded to make a fake video reporting their kidnapping and without the victim’s knowledge, the video is used to extort money from their family in China.

Vancouver police received 20 reports of similar extortion attempts last year and Robillard says investigations are underway into the two incidents last week.

He says detectives believe the suspects are not likely in Canada.

“We want to remind all foreign students that the Chinese police will not arrest you in Canada, or ask you to take photos or videos of yourselves pretending to be the victim of crime,” Robillard says.

He urges foreign students who are confused or scared to reach out to local police. Legitimate contact from Chinese authorities will first come through police in Canada, Robillard says.

The Canadian Press