THE Chinese community across Australia is being targeted by a frightening scam that involves threats of arrest, extortion and fake kidnappings.
Chinese students studying here are also being targeted, prompting the ACCC to urge people to be wary.
Scammers have demanded students pretend to be kidnapped by sending pictures of themselves bound and gagged to their families in China.
ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said these scams were particularly nasty and worrying, with a 400 per cent increase in reports and losses more than doubling last month.
In WA, 124 reports to Scamwatch were made this year, resulting in $79,166 in losses.
Losses were experienced in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and WA but the scam is targeting people across Australia, with 1700 reports recorded nationally and losses totalling $1.15 million.
The scam has two main variations.
First, speaking in Mandarin, a scammer will call directly or leave an ‘urgent’ voice message to call back.
The scammer will impersonate a parcel delivery service and/or Chinese authorities, and claim the person they’ve called is in serious trouble as they have intercepted a package with fraudulent documents such as fake passports.
The scammer will then threaten extradition to China to face criminal charges in court unless money is sent to them.
They will claim this money is needed to prove innocence while they investigate the supposed crime.
Chinese students have been targeted in the second variation of the scam, Ms Rickard said.
“In the past month, Scamwatch has received multiple reports of a cruel variation of this scam targeting Chinese students in Australia,” Ms Rickard said.
“The scammer will again claim to student victims that they have been involved in criminal activity and threaten them, and even their family, with criminal sanctions unless they pretend they have been kidnapped, including by taking photos of themselves bound and gagged.”
“Scammers will then use these photos to extort money from the student’s family by claiming the student has been kidnapped,” Ms Rickard said.
She said the most important thing members of the Chinese community in Australia can do to protect themselves from this scam is be aware about how it works and warn their friends and family.
“If you’re ever called by someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam,” she said.
“Don’t fall for their threats. Instead, hang up the phone and report it to your local police.
“If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately.”
Members of the Chinese community in Australia can also report the scam at www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter or subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts for more information.