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RCMP warns of ‘virtual kidnapping’ scheme

The Lower Mainland RCMP is warning the public about a cyber extortion scheme that tricks victims into believing their loved ones have been kidnapped.

While similar schemes are being reported worldwide, the six Lower Mainland incidents appear to be targeted at female Chinese nationals attending schools in the greater Vancouver area.

The RCMP is working with other police agencies on this investigation as well as the RCMP Liaison Officer in China to further investigative efforts in that country. Additionally, the RCMP is in contact with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver and the schools which the students are attending.

The Chinese students in Canada were initially contacted through an automated phone message urging them to call Chinese officials after being told their personal information had been compromised, and they were now associated to crimes in China. The suspects then coerce the victims into a series of actions. If they don’t cooperate, they are told their families back in China will be harmed.

Simultaneously, the parents are contacted by the suspects who convince them that their family members are being held against their will, which leads to a demand for money.

In each case, the suspects falsely claim to be Chinese government officials. Investigators were also told the callers used language typical of someone working within the Chinese government.

The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China wants Chinese students in Vancouver to know that, “should any Chinese citizens be involved in any legal cases in China, the relevant legal documents will be mailed to them directly from Chinese diplomatic missions. No phone call will be made to verify any personal information, especially the personal banking information,” the consulate says.

“I would add that should anyone receive such a message or phone call they should not comply with the demands,” says Staff Sergeant Annie Linteau, BC RCMP’s Senior Media Relations Officer.

The RCMP is concerned that similar incidents have occurred. “We are very concerned that there may be more victims and we do understand that people may have some apprehension about coming forward,” adds S/Sgt. Linteau, "but, I want to assure you that the police are here to help you and we will thoroughly investigate these incidents.”

We urge anyone who may be a victim of this crime to call your local police department or RCMP detachment or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or text BCTIP to 274637.