International students studying in Australia targeted in virtual kidnapping scam

International students studying in Australia have been targeted in a virtual kidnapping scam that has seen families lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to scammers.

Four cases of virtual kidnapping have been reported in Perth since last August and police say the scam is on the rise.

Those targeted were between the ages of 18 and 22 and were ordered to pay fines of up to $215,000 or face extradition back to their country of origin to face prosecution.

Victims were offered the chance to pay the scammers a fee to protect themselves from possible jail time and to speed up the process.

During the negotiations, the fraudsters advised the victim to prepare an extortion attempt against her parents.

As the situation escalated, the students were forced to fake their own kidnappings. The pictures were then sent to their families and used to demand a ransom for their safe release.

Detective Constable Peter Foley said the victims had suffered serious financial and psychological consequences as a result of the ordeal.

“Vulnerable victims of crime are young international students who may have left their families for the first time and are alone in a foreign country,” he said.

“Fraudsters prey on their vulnerability and take advantage of the distance between the victim and their families.

“It is virtually impossible for families to confirm that the victim is in fact safe and sound and that no charges have been brought against them by foreign authorities.”

Scammers typically told the victim they were involved in a crime and used information about the victim from social media or other sources and forged documents to legitimize the scam.

Fraudsters took advantage of people’s trust in government and their fear of trouble.

“Feelings of helplessness and shame deter victims from contacting the police after being scammed,” Detective Superintendent Foley said.

“Our statistics probably do not show the whole picture and there may be more victims.

“We encourage all victims to come forward. It is not your fault and help is at hand.”

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