A student from China studying in Halifax has been the target of a so-called “virtual kidnapping scam.”
Police say it’s the first time the extortion scam has been reported in the Halifax area, but it has occurred in other areas of the country.
Halifax Regional Police say they received a report at 4:30 a.m. on Friday that a woman from China had been kidnapped and her family in China had been contacted to pay a ransom for her return.
But officers located the 22-year-old woman — who was unharmed — at 10:30 a.m.
Investigators have since determined that this incident was part of an “elaborate extortion scam” known as “virtual kidnapping.”
Police say they have limited details since the investigation is in its early stages.
WATCH: Police warn about phony kidnapping scam
They can confirm, however, that the scam begins with a call to a student telling them that there is a warrant for their arrest in China or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation. The scammers will then convince the victim to record fake videos that make it appear the victim has been kidnapped or is the victim of a crime.
The scammers take that video and send it to the victim’s family members, who are then extorted for money. Meanwhile, the victim is told to go into hiding from Canadian police.
“Police want to remind all international students studying in Halifax that police officers from another country will not arrest you in Canada. Legitimate contact from the authorities from your country will be through your local police,” said HRP in a news release.
“Police officers will not ask you to take photos or videos of yourself pretending to be the victim of a crime. Police officers are here to help you and you should reach out to your local police if a situation arises that makes you feel frightened or confused.”
Often cases, the victims of these crimes are women in their early 20s from China who are studying in Canada on a student visa.
Police believe the scammers are likely not in Canada.
The investigation into Friday’s incident is still under investigation by Halifax Regional Police. They’re asking anyone else who may have been the victim of a similar incident to contact them.