Scam warning: fake ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam targets Chinese Australians

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning the public about a complex new international scam targeting the Chinese community in Australia.

The scam involves victims – largely international students – being told they are allegedly implicated in crimes in China. The scammers then coerce the victims into a series of actions and make threats that their families in China will be harmed if they don’t cooperate.

Simultaneously, the victims’ families in China are told by the scammer their family members have been kidnapped and will only be released if a large sum of money is paid. In each case, the scammers communicate with the victims in Mandarin and falsely claim to be Chinese government officials.

Reports of the scam in Australia have been shared by INTERPOL Canberra to local police across the country and will be shared with Chinese authorities.

There have also been reports of similar versions of this scam worldwide, including in Canada and the USA. The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China has previously advised that Chinese officials will not advise of legal cases or seek to verify personal information over the phone.

If you think someone is trying to scam you, or you’ve been scammed, the AFP advises to cease all contact with the scammer and contact your local police or consulate immediately.

Scams take advantage of people's trust in authorities and fear of doing the wrong thing. Victims can feel an array of emotions – from helplessness and humiliation to anger and guilt – but it's important to know you are not to blame and there is help at hand.

For more information on scams, how to report them and tips on how to protect yourself, visit the Federal Government's Scamwatch website here. If you are concerned that your identity has been compromised, contact the national identity and cyber support service (IDCARE) here.

Media enquiries:
AFP Media (Canberra) (02) 6131 6333

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Tips on how to protect yourself:

  • If you get cold called by someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam. Do not send them any money. Instead, hang up the phone immediately and report it to your local police.
  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • If you think you have provided your bank account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
  • When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it's over the phone, by mail, fax, email, in person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam.
  • You can contact IDCARE (a national identity and cyber support service) for support if you have concerns about your identity being compromised. Contact them via the online form or phone: 1300 432 273.
  • The Scamwatch website has information about scams in Chinese languages.


If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

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