Fake kidnapping sparks police hunt for missing Chinese student in Halifax

It started with a dramatic call to Halifax police at 4:30 a.m. Friday that a woman had been kidnapped and a ransom demand was made for her return.

Virtual kidnappers use faked videos to extort money from overseas parents

Halifax police received a report at 4:30 a.m. Friday that a Chinese woman studying here had been kidnapped. Officers found the woman safe six hours later. (CBC)

Virtual kidnappers scared a young student in Halifax this morning with a scam targeting her family in China. 

It started with a dramatic call to Halifax Regional Police at 4:30 a.m. Friday. 

"We received a call that a female had been kidnapped and the people were demanding a ransom," said Const. Carol McIsaac. 

Police searched for the 22-year-old Chinese woman, a foreign student in Halifax.  After six hours, they found her safe — and found a strange story unravelling. 

First virtual kidnapping in Halifax

"The investigators determined that it was actually an internet scam and that the female had gotten a call from people who were identifying themselves as police and that she needed to send money." 

It's the first report of a virtual kidnapping in Halifax.

Police said the scam usually targets female Chinese students abroad. It starts when someone calls the student and tells her Chinese police want to arrest her, or that Chinese police need her help. 

The scammers get the victim to record videos that make the kidnapping look real. They use the videos to extort money from the family. The victim is told to hide from Canadian police. 

Ask questions

McIsacc wouldn't say how far this scam got. She says anyone who gets a strange call from police should ask questions.  

"Say to the person you're talking to, I need you to give me your name, your badge number, or your police ID number, and a phone number where I can call you back at," she said.

If they won't give that, hang up. If they do, hang up and call Halifax police with that information. 

Foreign police don't make arrests in Canada

Halifax police are also telling international students studying in Halifax that police officers from another country will not arrest them in Canada, and any contact from the authorities in their countries will be through local police.

The investigation into the virtual kidnapping is in the early stages, police said. They doubt the scammers are in Canada. 

McIsaac said anyone with information about this or similar cases should call police at (902) 490-5016 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers online or at 1-800-222-8477.