The Saanich Police Department is warning the public – specifically the Chinese community – about “virtual kidnappings.”
On Wednesday, Saanich detectives were called to assist with an ongoing incident in Vancouver. A Saanich family was contacted by someone claiming that a family member in Vancouver was in danger and demanded money for their release. The family immediately contacted local police to report the kidnapping.
This was “instrumental in thwarting [the] fraud attempt,” said Det. Staff Sgt. Chris Horsely of the Saanich Police Department.
The scheme is elaborate and there have been several similar incidents. First, the victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Chinese Consulate and is told that there is a warrant for their arrest in China, Horsley explained. Or, the caller claims to be from the Chinese Police and says they need help with an investigation. The caller tells the scam victim to go into hiding and make fake kidnap videos. The scammer then sends the videos to the victim’s family or friends asking for money in exchange for their release.
Horsley emphasized that police from outside the country cannot arrest people in Canada and will never “ask for photos or videos of [you] pretending to be a victim of crime.”
“Any contact from international authorities should be through your local police,” he explained.
People can protect themselves by calling the non-emergency line of the local police department if they’re contacted by someone claiming to be from the Chinese Consulate or the Chinese Police. Horsely also recommends spreading the word about the extortion scams with family, students and visitors from mainland China.
Horsley noted that all contact from foreign governments would come through local police, Canadian and Chinese authorities would never ask people to destroy their phone or take photos and videos pretending to be kidnapped.
The Saanich police are here to help if you feel unsafe or threatened, said Horsley. Anyone who receives similar calls is asked to contact the Saanich Police by dialing 911 or calling the non-emergency line at 250-475-4321 – even if the caller tells you not to.