Winnipeg police are warning people about a scam that aims to extort cash by making families believe a travelling loved one has been kidnapped.
Police call the scam virtual kidnapping, and say the scammers contact victims, claiming to have kidnapped a loved one and threatening to harm or kill them unless a ransom is paid. Usually, according to police, the family member is out of the country at the time.
“In fact, no one has been kidnapped, but the victims are threatened and coerced to believe they have, and quickly pay a ransom,” a Winnipeg police release sent Saturday said.
According to the release, the scam is more common in the U.S. but Winnipeg police are now aware of two cases locally, which they say are the first in the city.
Police said the first Winnipeg case happened on Jan. 9, and the second the next day. “In both cases the victim wired funds to an out-of-country area code,” according to the release. Police added the amount wired, in each case, was less than $5,000.
Last fall, RCMP and Edmonton police said numerous victims in B.C. and Alberta were contacted by suspects claiming to be Chinese government officials. The victims were told they were implicated in crimes in China.
The incidents appear to be targeting female Chinese nationals, who are often coerced into a series of actions and told that failure to follow through will result in harm to their families.
At the same time, families in China are contacted by suspects claiming to be Chinese government officials who say their loved ones in Canada are being held against their will, leading to a demand for money.
In November 2017, three Chinese nationals studying in Toronto went missing for several days after they were targeted by a similar scam, police said.
Toronto police Const. Craig Brister told media the victims were “told they need to go into hiding, not to use their cellphones, not to contact their families and not to use any form of social media or the internet.”
Read the full story over at CBC News.