Chinese students in Sheffield have been warned of a national scam where fraudsters are blackmailing them to fake their own kidnapping.
The scammers, who claim to be from the Chinese Embassy, threaten them with an arrest warrant unless they stage their own abduction and send proof in the form of photos and videos to their relatives in their home country to procure “ransom” money for the fraudsters.
Inspector Kevin Smith said: “We have received one report of this scam being carried out in South Yorkshire. The student in this case was blackmailed into procuring a significant amount of money from their family in China.
“Thankfully, the student came to no harm and is currently being supported by our officers, with investigations ongoing to trace the money and those responsible.”
To prevent contact between the victims and their family abroad, fraudsters resort to blackmailing the victim into turning off their phone, buying a second one with a different number and leaving their accommodation to stay elsewhere so that family members have no way of contacting them to substantiate the claims.
Amber, a journalism student at TUOS:” I’ve heard about a recent story where a Chinese student was scammed out of 120,0000 RMB, I was really shocked. There are many scams going on and my parents are also shocked, these fraudsters are literally going out of their way. ”
This has left families in a fearful state and vulnerable position.
Insp Smith added: “They are living in a foreign country, often cut off by family and friends due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and fraudsters take advantage of these struggles to use them to their advantage.
“Many victims feel they have no choice but to comply with the fraudsters’ demands.”
Lin Zhuo, BA Education, Culture and Childhood from the UOS: “Because I’m also a Chinese student, I was very worried and scared at the beginning. I didn’t tell my parents about this because I was afraid they would worry about me”
South Yorkshire Police hopes by issuing this information, fewer people will fall prey to this cruel scam.
Taylor Ogle, SU International and Community Officer at the University of Sheffield said: “ I want all international students to know we’re looking out for them. I would encourage them to be extra vigilant and know their rights so that they are as informed as possible against scams that target international students.”
A spokesperson from South Yorkshire Police said: “Please be vigilant and remember that no matter how sincere or authoritative the caller seems, a real organisation would never ask you perform tasks such as this. If you think you have been a victim of this scam, please report it to us by calling 101. You can also contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or go online to actionfraud.police.uk.”