The ACCC’s Scamwatch service is warning the Chinese community in Australia to be wary about two frightening scams targeting them that involve threats of arrest, and extortion via fake kidnappings.
In 2018, Scamwatch has received nearly 1700 reports about these scams, with losses totalling $1.15 million. Losses have come from NSW, Victoria, Queensland or Western Australia; however the scam is targeting people nationwide.
“These scams are particularly nasty and worryingly we’re seeing a dramatic spike in the Chinese community being targeted. In May, there was a 400 per cent increase in reports of these scams and losses more than doubled,” ACCC Acting Chair Delia Rickard said.
There are two main variations of this scam. First, speaking in Mandarin, a scammer will call you directly or leave you an ‘urgent’ voice message to call back. The scammer will impersonate a parcel delivery service and/or Chinese authorities and claim you are in serious trouble as they have intercepted a package addressed to you with fraudulent documents such as fake passports.
The scammer will then threaten you with extradition to China to face criminal charges in court unless money is sent to them. They will claim this money is needed to prove your innocence while they investigate the supposed crime.
“In the past month, Scamwatch has received multiple reports of a cruel variation of this scam targeting Chinese students in Australia,” Ms Rickard said.
“The scammer will again claim to student victims that they have been involved in criminal activity and threaten them, and even their family, with criminal sanctions unless they pretend they have been kidnapped, including by taking photos of themselves bound and gagged.”
“Scammers will then use these photos to extort money from the student’s family by claiming the student has been kidnapped,” Ms Rickard said.
The most important thing members of the Chinese community in Australia can do to protect themselves from this scam is be aware about how it works and warn their friends and family.
“If you’re ever called by someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam. It’s very frightening to receive these calls and scammers use your fear against you so you’ll send them money or participate in a bogus kidnapping,” Ms Rickard said.
“Don’t fall for their threats. Instead, hang up the phone and report it to your local police. If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately.”