As Filipinos, we are not new to scams. From pyramiding scams to the infamous “budol-budol” and “akyat-bahay” modus, we have grown accustomed to protecting ourselves from these dangers.
But criminals are out for blood money with a new scam once again. Incidences of Virtual Kidnapping have been on the rise in Australia.
Recently, Chinese Students Targeted
A few days ago, the Australian Federal Police issued a warning against this recurring scam. For now, the scammers are targeting Chinese students in an elaborate scheme preying on miscommunication and fear.
For the recent ones, the criminal pretends to be a Chinese ambassador or consul and calls the student. They accuse the student of crimes against China or Taiwan. Moving forward, they are asked to collaborate for the investigation by doing specific actions, which may include a voice or video recording.
They are usually instructed to hide and not contact their relatives even the ones abroad. Afterward, the criminals call their relatives abroad and demand ransom for their “kidnapped” kid, often times with background noise of your “son/daughter” screaming for help.
You may say, how can they be easily scammed? You can’t blame the victims. The criminals are professionals. They know how, who, and when to target. They even devised everything in Mandarin for this specific ploy for that added flare.
With their children unreachable plus some basic information and a video or voice recording, how can you not believe them?
Versions of this scam abroad even tap your GPS data to have that illusion that someone is watching you. And how can you think straight when your only daughter is on the verge of dying? The parent would just want everything to run smoothly for their child’s safety.
After paying the ransom, they are left dumbfounded with a sudden text message to a child. Because the child was perfectly safe in the first place.
With these kinds of scams, it is difficult to prosecute as they are often times situated in a foreign country. And for the parents, being abroad makes it harder for them to double-check the facts of the scam.
According to conversation.com.au, as of the moment, the crime syndicates moved their operations to Eastern Europe, East Africa, and Southeast Asia (including Australia, Cambodia, Kenya, Thailand, and the Philippines) to minimize the risk of prosecution.
Being abroad helps them get away from prosecution as inter-boundary trials are hard to get by. And for some laxer countries, they might just bribe their way out of harm. With this predicament, what can we do then?
Limit Information in Social Media
Honestly, all we can do is to make it harder for the criminals to target us. First of all, one should limit the sensitive information they post online.
I know you need those hundreds of likes for your self-worth (better work on this), but you don’t need to let the world know everything about you (like publicly posting your phone number).
Even basic information about your child or yourself is used to establish the truthfulness of the scam. Making you fall prey in the scam.
Authenticate With Questions Only Your Child Would Know
You can also brief your family beforehand that if something happens like this, you have a secret code for it. Or you can try asking something that only your child knows. With this, you can authenticate if the threat is really there.
But you can never be fully secure against such attacks. All we can do is raise awareness for everyone to be informed. As the AFP advises:
“If you think someone is trying to scam you, or you’ve been scammed, the AFP advises to cease all contact with the scammer and contact your local police or consulate immediately.”
Let’s stay safe.