8 May 2024

Alleged virtual kidnapper pretended to be Chinese police officer when demanding payments

| Albert McKnight

A 22-year-old man arrives in Canberra after being extradited over an alleged virtual kidnapping. Photo: ACT Policing.

Police allege a man pretended to be a Chinese police officer when he demanded payments from an international student in Canberra in an incident that resulted in her being the victim of a virtual kidnapping scam.

The 22-year-old was arrested in Queensland on Monday (6 May) and then extradited to the ACT where he faced the Magistrates Court on Wednesday (8 May), charged with unlawfully confining a person and impersonating a police officer.

He is expected to apply for bail on Friday (10 May).

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ACT Policing allege the man first contacted the woman in August 2023 and claimed to be a Chinese police officer investigating her for money laundering.

He allegedly pressured her not to tell anyone about their discussions and convinced her to check into a hotel room where he arrived to place her under ‘arrest’.

The man allegedly demanded ‘bail’ payments, which she paid that day, then made more over the next few weeks.

The woman was allegedly convinced to hand over her phone and social media accounts and book another hotel. The man then contacted her family overseas to claim she had been kidnapped and demanded a ransom.

Her family and friends reported her missing to ACT Policing and she was later found at a hotel in the ACT.

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Police allege they identified the man involved, who was filmed on security camera footage and tracked him to an address in Queensland where he had been living before placing him under arrest.

Virtual kidnapping is a complex scam that often targets international students.

Scammers contact their victim by phone and usually impersonate a person of authority from their home country.

“Scammers typically tell the victim they are linked to a crime and use information about the victim, either from social media or other sources and fake documents to legitimise the scam,” a police spokesperson said.

“Eventually, scammers will convince the victim to leave their residence and demand money from the victim’s family.”

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