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Alert: Virtual kidnapping scam

Sonder   |   Jul 30, 2020 3:33:05 PM

Authorities are warning members of the community about an elaborate phone scam targeting Chinese students, known globally as a ‘virtual kidnapping'

A ‘virtual kidnapping’ is a sophisticated extortion scam that involves young victims faking their own kidnappings following phone calls from fraudsters – who then demand ransom payments for their safe release from relatives.

Reports have suggested that the scam occurs in the following way:

  • Initial contact is made through a phone call from someone usually speaking in Mandarin and claiming to be a representative from a Chinese authority, such as the Chinese Embassy, Consulate or Police.
  • The caller then convinces the victim that they have been implicated in a crime in China, or that their identity has been stolen, and that they must pay a fee to avoid legal action, arrest or deportation.
  • The victim is then threatened or coerced into transferring large amounts of money into unknown offshore bank accounts.
  • In some instances, victims are convinced to fake their own kidnappings – known as a ‘virtual kidnapping’.
  • Scammers instruct victims to cease contact with their family and friends, rent a hotel room and take photographs or video recordings that depict them bound and blindfolded. These files are then shared with the victim’s relatives overseas.
  • When the victim’s parents are unable to establish contact with their child in Australia, they send large ransom payments in exchange for their ‘release’.
  • The caller will continue to make threats and ransom demands until they are unable to obtain any further payments, often resulting in the victim’s family making contact with police.

If you are the recipient of unexpected or questionable material in any form (physical, text, phone call, email),  Sonder can help you. We have also together a list of trusted resources to learn more about the scams and report is required.  

How Sonder can support you
Sonder's support team are here to help, 24/7. All of the team are skilled and ready to help you problem solve. If you believe you're a victim of a scam, reach out to us through the app at any time of day or night. We can provide advice and assistance in reporting to authorities, help you with any banking issues and more.  Simply call, chat or swipe for help anytime.