On the 27th of July, news reports surfaced about Chinese international students falling victim to virtual kidnapping schemes under threats of violence in Sydney, NSW.
As reported by News AU, this ‘virtual kidnapping’ scheme involved convincing Chinese international students to fake their own kidnappings before demanding a large ransom from their relatives overseas. This scheme has garnered over $3 million in false ransom payments in 2020 alone.
In light of such news, the question of ‘is this a scam call?’ and ‘what should I do if I think I have been scammed?’ has popped up for many international students residing not only in NSW, but all over Australia and around the world as well.
Wait… is this a scam call?
Detective Superintendent Jane Welsh from Victoria Police noted that most commonly, these scams will call victims about an issue that will require the victim to transfer money to a bank account (usually located overseas) in order to resolve it. In some cases, victims are asked to purchase other currencies, such as Bitcoin, to make these payments.
“Victims should also be wary if they are contacted by anyone claiming to be from the Chinese government or police implying that they are involved in an international fraud investigation or will be deported from Australia,” she added.
Aside from calls, there are many other phone scams. Scamwatch.gov.au pointed out that the common ones are: emails, SMS, online shopping, and even ads that you see on your phone.
But don’t fret! There are signs you can look out for. According to Scamwatch, the scammer’s goal is to gain your trust, and many of the messages imply a sense of urgency. Here are signs you can notice prior, have you seen any of them before?
- You can’t confirm the source/who it’s from
- Grammatical errors in the writing, or a link/email address that looks incorrect and different
- A friend/acquaintance you don’t normally talk to suddenly reaches out to you
- It always asks you to do something, like send a verification code, or fill out a form
I think I’ve been scammed. What should I do?
If you’re on a call with an unknown number and you think you’re being scammed, the first thing you should do is hang up and talk it over with someone you trust.
Personal information, credit card or online account details should never be disclosed via phone call unless you are on the phone with a trusted source.
If you’re given links or methods to verify anything, do not follow unless you are certain it’s from a source you trust. Always try to confirm it with your friends/shop/bank you’re connected to.
You can look up the number that called you or find the official agency website for their listed contact number and manually call them to verify just in case. Never press redial.
The Victorian Police urges victims of virtual scams to contact police immediately and lodge a report via a new national system, ReportCyber, where you can report cybercrimes that have been inflicted on you. The cybercrimes you may encounter include cyber abuse, online image abuse, online shopping fraud, romance fraud, identity theft, email compromise, internet fraud, ransomware, or malware, among many others.
Detective Superintendent Jane Welsh assures that visa conditions will not be impacted if and when an international student reports a crime in Victoria. “We know that victims may be hesitant to report these crimes to police, which means they may not be linked in with appropriate support to help manage their wellbeing,” she added.
If you’ve been a victim to any virtual scams or know someone who has, please do not hesitate to contact your local police department. You can contact the Victorian police via their phone number: 1800 333 000 or via their online contact forms, here.
Meld strongly advises international students to practice social distancing, abide by their city’s lockdown rules and to wear a mask outdoors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you need any help and questions send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your respective state’s Study Australia Partners.