Parents, friends of international student defrauded out of over $200K in virtual kidnapping scam

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May 22, 2018 (Courtesy of – Durham police are investigating after parents and friends of an international student were defrauded out of more than $200,000 in a “virtual kidnapping” scam.

The 18-year-old female student at McGill University in Montreal, was told that she had been implicated in a crime ring and would be arrested if she failed to take photos of herself tied up and in distress, making it appear that she had been kidnapped, police said.

Her mother, also an international student, lives in Oshawa, Ont.

Money not recovered

Police said the scammer received the images and sent them to the mother, demanding ransom money through an online app. The student’s father is in Asia, police said, but did not specify where.

Her parents and friends transferred more than $200,000 to an unknown bank account, then her mother called Durham police on Wednesday to report a kidnapping.

Police determined that her daughter was still in Montreal and police there located her unharmed in a hotel room. The money has not been recovered.

“She had been manipulated into sending the staged photos under threat of arrest if she didn’t comply and was told to stay in the hotel room. She was reunited with her family,” police said in a news release this week.

Don’t talk to scammers, police say

Insp. Tim Maw of the Durham Regional Police said Saturday that police want to make sure that the public is aware of such scams.

“We would just like to warn the public that if you suspect this could be a virtual kidnapping scam to not talk to the perpetrators but to call the local police for further advice,” Maw said.

To report a scam attempt, visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at: or call 1-888-495-8501.