Threat & kidnap scams targeting Chinese community

Scamwatch is warning the Chinese community in Australia about 2 scams that involve extortion and threats of arrest.

How these scams work

A scammer speaking Mandarin will call directly or leave an ‘urgent’ voice message to call back. When you return the call the scammer may pretend to be from a Chinese authority such as the police, a government or immigration official, or a parcel delivery service.

They may claim:

  • you are in serious trouble as they have intercepted a package addressed to you with illegal material such as fake passports or credit cards
  • your identity has been stolen or hacked and used for illegal activity
  • the Australian Government will arrest or deport you due to a problem with your visa.

Ultimately they will threaten you’ll be extradited to China to face criminal charges unless money is sent to them. They will claim this money is needed to prove your innocence while they investigate the supposed crime, but there is no crime. It is simply not true.

Alternatively, they may use excuses around COVID-19 to:

  • accuse you of attempting to import prohibited personal protective equipment
  • claim the Chinese government is tracking all Chinese citizens overseas in relation to COVID-19 and request personal information about you for a COVID-related health check.

Victim's story

“The scammer called and acted as a government official from China and told me that I had received an illegal package. They also stated that I had engaged in an international money laundering activity and threatened to arrest me and send me back to China if I did not pay an amount of $100,000 AUD immediately.” – Scamwatch reporter

Fake kidnappings

In a variation of this scam, the imposter will accuse their victims, usually students, of criminal activity. They will threaten the victim and 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.

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.

Reports and losses

  • Between January and November 2020, Scamwatch received over 2,000 reports about scams targeting the Chinese community, with losses totalling $6.6 million – more than 3 times the losses incurred across the whole of 2019.
  • In 2019, Scamwatch received over 1,000 reports about scams targeting the Chinese community, with losses totalling over $2 million – approximately a 70% increase in losses from 2018.

Protect yourself

  • If you ever receive a call from someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam.
  • Hang up the phone immediately and report it to your local police or to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
  • If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately.
  • Warn your friends and family about this scam.

Members of the Chinese community in Australia can also report the scam to Scamwatch.

People can also follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

The ACCC’s Little black book of scams is an important tool for recognising scams and is available in simplified Chinese on the ACCC website.

More information

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