Virtual kidnapping on rise

POLICE have issued a warning to Chinese students following an increase in ‘virtual kidnappings’.

Eight incidents have been reported to the police, with scammers targeting Chinese international students and successfully obtaining $3.2 million in ransom payments.
It’s a sophisticated extortion scam that involves young victims faking their own kidnappings following phone calls from fraudsters – who then demand ransom payments for their safe release, from relatives.
Incidents of a similar nature have been reported to international law enforcement agencies and netted millions of dollars from victims around the world.
Investigators have been told that initial contact is made through a phone call from someone usually speaking in Mandarin and claiming to be a representative from a Chinese authority, such as the Chinese Embassy, Consulate or Police.
The caller then convinces the victim that they have been implicated in a crime in China, or that their identity has been stolen, and that they must pay a fee to avoid legal action, arrest or deportation.
Using technology to mask their physical locations, scammers encourage victims to continue communications through various encrypted applications such as WeChat and WhatsApp.
The victim is then threatened or coerced into transferring large amounts of money into unknown offshore bank accounts.
In some instances, victims are convinced to fake their own kidnappings – known as a ‘virtual kidnapping’.
Scammers instruct victims to cease contact with their family and friends, rent a hotel room and take photographs or video recordings that depict them bound and blindfolded. These files are then shared with the victim’s relatives overseas.
When the victim’s parents are unable to establish contact with their child in Australia, they send large ransom payments in exchange for their ‘release’.
NSW Police Force Corporate Sponsor for the Safety and Wellbeing of International Students, Assistant Commissioner Peter Thurtell, said the international community was urged to contact police if they suspected they had been a victim of a scam.
Last year, 1,172 reports of ‘Chinese authority’ scams were recorded across the country by Scamwatch with a total loss in excess of $2 million.

Hunt for crash injured
POLICE are trying to locate two people who may be injured, following a crash at Newtown.
Last Friday about 6.15am, emergency services were called to King Street following reports of a crash between a blue Suzuki Swift, utility and a motorcycle.
The rider and driver of the ute were uninjured.
Inner West Police Area Command are investigating and would like to speak to the two occupants of the car, with initial reports suggesting they may be suffering injuries.

Supply charge over drugs in car
A MAN has been charged after 2.3kg of GBL (gamma butyrolactone) was allegedly seized when his car was stopped in Newtown last Wednesday night.
Officers from the Inner West Proactive Crime Team, were conducting high-visibility patrols of King Street, Newtown, about 7.15pm, when they stopped an SUV after it allegedly almost collided with a fully-marked police car.
After speaking with the 33-year-old driver, police searched the vehicle and allegedly seized almost 2.4kg of gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and $6,750 cash.
The driver was charged with supplying a commercial quantity of an illegal drug, and dealing with property proceeds of crime.