Peterborough Police Warn of the “Virtual Kidnapping Scam” Circulating in the Area

The Peterborough Police Service is warning the community that the “virtual kidnapping scam” targeting international postsecondary students is now circulating in our area.

On Monday June 11, 2018 a media conference was held at police headquarters with represenatives from both Trent University and Fleming College attending.

Recently two students from China attending postsecondary institutions in Peterborough have been targeted by this fraud.

In the first incident approximately $18,000 Canadian was extorted. No money was handed over in the second incident.

“This scam is not unique to Peterborough and has been circulating for some time in other parts of the country,” explains Staff Sergeant Daniel MacLean, Criminal Investigations Unit.

“The Peterborough Police Service is working closely with both postsecondary institutions in Peterborough to ensure students are well informed and well educated regarding scams and frauds and that they feel safe.”

Here’s how the scam works:

  • The victim gets a phone call, often from a number that appears to be coming from the Chinese Consulate.
  • They are told either that there is a Chinese warrant for their arrest, or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation.
  • The scammers then convince the target to make a phony video in which they say they’ve been kidnapped or are the victim of a crime.
  • These videos are sent to the victim’s family members, who are extorted for money by paying the ransom.
  • The victim in Canada is convinced by the scammers to go to a motel and hide from local police.

“This scam is extremely elaborate and sophisticated,” says Staff Sgt. MacLean.

“Through pro-active crime prevention education and messaging we hope to prevent any further victimization of our international student population.”

The Peterborough Police Service urges students and the community at large to pay close attention to the following tips:

  • Do not trust your call display. It may say “Police”. In reality, it may be an actual scammer. It does not matter what the caller ID says, you cannot trust it.
  • If you get an urgent call from someone stating they represent the Chinese Consulate, a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up. Call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request.
  • Never give out personal information in response to unexpected calls. This includes account numbers, social insurance number (SIN), information relating to your family members, your passport information, passwords or any information about your identity.
  • If someone on the phone tells you to keep a secret alarm bells should be going off.
  • When in doubt hang – up. Call a trusted family member, friend, staff at your school or call us.
  • As a reminder, the Chinese police will not arrest you in Canada, or ask you to take photos or videos of yourselves pretending to be the victim of crime.
  • Stop, pause and think before reacting to any suspicious phone call or communication you receive.

With information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre

If you receive a scam call please report it immediately to the Peterborough Police Service at 705-876-1122 or via our non-emergency crime online reporting system , Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll free at 1-888-495-8501.

For further information please visit:

Consulate-General Of The People’s Republic of China in Toronto website 

Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website

To watch the video from our media conference please visit the Peterborough Police Service Facebook page 

Staff Sergeant Daniel MacLean and Detective Constable Mark Reesor, Criminal Investigations Unit, address questions at a media conference held June 11, 2018 at police headquarters.

Staff Sergeant Daniel MacLean (left) and Detective Constable Mark Reesor (right), Peterborough Police Service Criminal Investigations Unit, address questions at a media conference held June 11, 2018 at police headquarters.