Police have found one of the three missing Chinese students who may have fallen victim to a ransom scam targeting their families overseas.
Juanwen Zhang, 20, was found safe on Saturday following reports that two others, Yue (Kandy) Liu, 17, and Ke (Jaden) Xu, 16, were also missing.
Police believe a suspect or suspects contacted the students and told them to go into hiding and stay off their phones and social media, threatening that their families back in China would be in danger if they did not comply.Police said they have information that suggests these students may have received threatening phone calls before disappearing.
Police said that the suspect or suspects then told family members of both students that they had been kidnapped and demanded a hefty ransom to secure their release.
Similar scams targeting Chinese students have been reported elsewhere in Canada, police said, but this is the first time it has happened in Toronto.
Joseph Steinberg, a cyber security expert, said virtual kidnapping began by targeting the Spanish community.He explained, because scammers believed that many people from this group would be scared to contact police because they are in Canada illegally. But it only grew from there.
He added, “It’s basically tricking people into thinking that their loved one or their co-worker is in danger when that person is totally safe.”
RCMP officers in B.C. and Alberta say they have seen this type of scam perpetrated in the west before.
Anyone with any information about these instances is asked to call police at 416-808-2222 immediately.