Canadian police warn of 'virtual kidnappings' targeting international students
Police are investigating international students being targeted by scammers. Source: Shutterstock

Canadian police and universities have warned Chinese students and their families following reports of ‘virtual kidnappings’ where scammers pose as law enforcement authorities demanding a ransom.

International students using the WeChat platform are reportedly at risk of the ‘virtual kidnappings’, where scammers acting as law enforcement officials threaten arrest or deportation unless the student complies with their demands.

Videos and messages are then sent to family members through the student’s social media accounts demanding money for their safe release according to Canadian police, as reported by the Calgary Sun.

Sagar Grewal, President of the University of Calgary Students’ Union, said international students are especially at risk to the scam because they are in a new culture, potentially for the first time, and English is likely their second language, according to CBC.

“We just really hope that international students feel as if they’re supported and that they feel they are safe on our campus,” he said. “We’re here to help.”

Canada has become one of the most popular study abroad destinations in recent years, thanks to its internationally welcoming culture and promising opportunities to stay in the country after graduation. In fact, 60 percent of international students want to gain permanent residency after graduation and its speculated Canada could overtake the UK as a global study abroad destination.

Canadian police have reminded international students that authorities would never stop them from speaking to family members when detained, according to CBC.

“Ironically, the victim…they don’t know they are actively participating in their own kidnapping. They’re under a form of mental duress and psychological persuasion. They’re playing a role and not knowing that they are making it tougher for police to get to the bottom,” said Calgary police acting Duty Inspector, Jeff Bell to Calgary Sun.

If you believe you are being targeted by scammers, you can always ring your local police station to check the validity of any messages and calls. There is no rush to reply to these people even if they are pressuring you to respond.

You can always visit your international student office on campus if you are feeling threatened or intimidated. Staff here will be able to put you in touch with authorities or offer you advice on staying safe.

It’s important to alert the police if you receive any suspicious messages to help them tackle the issue for the international student community.

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