Police in the Lower Mainland are warning the public about a “cyber-extortion” scam they say appears to target female Chinese nationals going to school.
Six incidents have been reported in the region so far, but the RCMP say similar schemes have been reported around the world.
“The Chinese students in Canada were initially contacted through an automated phone message, urging them to call Chinese officials,” the RCMP said in a news release Monday.
They are then told their personal information has been compromised and that they are now linked to crimes in China, police said, and they are either coerced “into a series of actions,” or told their families back in China will get hurt.
At the same time, police said, the fraudsters contact the parents and convince them their children are being held against their will, which leads to a demand for money.
The suspects pretend to be Chinese government officials, police added, and use language that those staff would typical use.
“Should anyone receive such a message or phone call, they should not comply with the demands,” said Staff Sergeant Annie Linteau.
“We are very concerned that there may be more victims and we do understand that people may have some apprehension about coming forward, but I want to assure you that the police are here to help you and we will thoroughly investigate these incidents.”
The RCMP is working with other police agencies, as well as the liaison officer in China, the consulate general of the People’s Republic of China in Vancouver, and the schools which the students are attending.
“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,” the consulate said. “No phone call will be made to verify any personal information, especially the personal banking information.”
Anyone who may be a victim of this crime is urged to call their local police department or RCMP detachment, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or text BCTIP to 274637.