International students from China are being warned of a scam where they're told to go into hiding, then their families are told the student has been kidnapped.

The scam has already had victims in Toronto and Hamilton – although none of the families turned money over to the scammers. Waterloo Regional Police said there have not been any reported cases of the scam here.

"Because we have such a large university and college population, we do want to warn the public, in particular, international students in our area that this scam is going on in the GTA so they can be aware in the event they are ever contacted," police spokesperson Cherri Greeno said.

Student safety 'paramount'

The University of Waterloo has issued a "scam alert" on its Student Success Office website, the school's director of media relations said.

"We haven't seen anything of this particular nature happen in Waterloo," Matthew Grant said. "But for us, the safety of our students is paramount, which is why we want to make sure they're aware of things such as this."

The scammers call a student and tell them to go into hiding. They're told not to call the police or tell anyone where they're going and if they do, their family in China will be hurt.

Then the scammers call the student's family in China and tell them their child has been kidnapped and a demand for ransom is made.

UW tells students to call police if they believe they or someone they know is a target of the scam, keep in regular contact with family back home and let people know where you are going and when you'll return.