Halifax Regional Police is warning the public after a student from China was targeted in a “virtual kidnapping” extortion scam.
At approximately 4:30 a.m., Halifax Regional Police received a report that a female student from China, studying in Halifax, had been kidnapped, and her family in China had been contacted to pay a ransom for her return. Through the investigation, officers located the 22-year-old woman, who was not physically harmed, at approximately 10: 30 a.m. Investigators have determined that the incident was an elaborate extortion scam also known as a virtual kidnapping.
The investigation is in the early stages and limited details are available at this time.
This is the first report of this extortion scam in Halifax but it has occurred in other areas of the country. The scam begins with a call to a student advising that there is a warrant for their arrest in China, or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation. The scammers eventually convince the victim to record fake videos that make it appear they have been kidnapped or are the victim of another crime.
The scammers send the videos to the victim’s family members who are extorted for money. The victim is then told to go into hiding from Canadian police. The victims have generally been women in their early 20s from China, who are in Canada studying on a student visa. The scammers are not likely in Canada.
Police want to remind all international students studying in Halifax that police officers from another country will not arrest you in Canada. Legitimate contact from the authorities from your country will be through your local police. Police officers will not ask you to take photos or videos of yourself pretending to be the victim of a crime. Police officers are here to help you and you should reach out to your local police if a situation arises that makes you feel frightened or confused.
This incident remains under investigation by members of the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Section. Investigators are asking anyone who may have been the victim of a similar incident to contact police.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call (902) 490-5016. Anonymous tipsters can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca. or by using the P3 Tips App.
Source: Media Release