Edmonton police are warning residents of a “virtual kidnapping” scheme that may be making its way to Edmonton’s Chinese community from British Columbia.
“We became aware of these via the Mainland B.C. RCMP,” Sgt. Kevin Harrison, with the Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) Crisis Negotiator Unit, said at a Thursday news conference. “And my understanding of this is (it’s) basically a series of extortions and frauds that are targeting, specifically, the Chinese community and often victimizing young female students.”
In July, RCMP in the Lower Mainland learned of a fraud trend that involved primarily young, Chinese women who were students in the area. The suspects allegedly pose as Chinese government officials or law enforcement and contact their victims via telephone, telling them they’ve been implicated in crimes in China.
Police said the suspects then threaten to harm the victim’s family unless the victim goes into hiding, saying if they contact Canadian police they will be deported. The suspects reportedly then contact the victim’s family and tell them the victim is being held against their will and demand money for their safe release.
“We have not had any reported incidents, as of yet, here in Edmonton,” Harrison said. “However, I can say that — anecdotally — having spoken to members of the Chinese consulate, we are aware that there are members of the Chinese community here in Edmonton who have reported getting similar type phone calls.”
WATCH BELOW: Police are warning about a virtual kidnapping scam that tricks victims into believing their loved-ones are in danger. Global News’ Anne Drewa filed this report in August.
The consulate general of the People’s Republic of China in Calgary is reminding all Chinese nationals that anyone involved in a criminal investigation in China would not be contacted in the described manner. Any legal documents would be sent through the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, or via a consulate general in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto.
“Part of the reason we’re here today is that we felt the best way to combat these types of crimes is to be proactive and reach out to our partners in the Chinese community — from the Chinese consulate — to get a message out to the students at the universities and post-secondary schools, and say to be aware of these crimes. To know that you can come to the local law enforcement — to the Edmonton police — and report these matters if you are being contacted or threatened.”
In one week in August, six Vancouver women reported being contacted by someone claiming their family in China would be harmed if they didn’t go into hiding.
Anyone who has been contacted by someone claiming something similar is urged to call the EPS at 780-423-4567 or #377 from a mobile phone. Anonymous information can also be submitted to Crime Stoppers.