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Family loses $288k to kidnapping scam targeting international students in NSW

International students have been warned to be on "high alert", with a virtual kidnapping scam targeting NSW students having led to one family losing $288,000.
NSW Police have issued the warning after being made aware of at least three incidents of the scam targetting students in the past fortnight.
The complex scam usually starts with a phone call claiming the person has been implicated in a crime in China or their identity has been stolen, demanding the victim pay a fee to avoid arrest or deportation or legal action.
Scam photo
The complex scam usually starts with a phone call claiming the person has been implicated in a crime in China (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
They are then threatened or coerced into sending large amounts of money into offshore bank accounts, according to NSW Police.
In some cases, the victim is told to fake their own kidnapping, being told to cut off contact with their families and rent a hotel room, where they are instructed to bind and blindfold themselves on camera.
These images are then shared with the victim's relatives, who are overseas, who then send large sums of money to the scammers in return for their child's 'release'.
One incident cost a family $288,000 after they sent money to a bank account in China as a ransom payment.
They believed a 23-year-old family member had been kidnapped in Sydney and contacted NSW Police after sending the money.
NSW Police located the woman on Hunter Street in Sydney.
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NSW Police have been informed of two other incidents in October alone, both of which involved ransom demands up to $500,000.
Detective Superintendent Joseph Doueihi from the Robbery and Serious Crime squad said the scam is changing rapidly.
"Virtual kidnappings have developed considerably over the last decade by transnational organised crime syndicates, and they continue to become more sophisticated," he said in a statement.
"In some cases, we're seeing evidence of the scammers talking to their victim for months on end."
"We've also seen a couple of cases where the victim has eventually been coerced into then becoming the perpetrator and acting as a Chinese official to scam more students."
Victoria Police issued a warning earlier in the year about similar scams targetting international students in the state.

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