Authorities in Utah discovered a Chinese exchange student at a makeshift campground in the mountains. The student was allegedly involved in an extortion operation orchestrated by cybercriminals perpetrating “Cyber kidnapping.”
High school officials reported missing 17-year-old Kai Zhuang after his parents got a ransom demand letter with a picture of their son. A news release claimed, “due to ongoing threats from the kidnappers,” the teen’s Chinese parents had transferred $80,000 to Chinese bank accounts.
Zhuang had just purchased camping equipment. A week before his claimed abduction.
Police stumbled upon Zhuang camping out, and they were worried about his safety, so they returned him home.
After studying bank records, transactions, and phone signals, the adolescent was eventually located by local police in collaboration with the FBI, the U.S. consulate in China, and Chinese officials.
A tent with a “thermal blanket, a sleeping bag, little food and drink, and many phones that were assumed to have been used to carry out the cyber abduction” was discovered by the Riverdale Police Department 25 miles north of Brigham City, Utah, along with Zhuang.
Reportedly, the victim, who was “extremely chilly and afraid,” asked for a cheeseburger.
French news agency AFP said the situation is typical of cyber kidnappings, in which con artists threaten victims into isolating themselves and then use pictures and video chats to keep tabs on them and to send to their parents. Victims go along with these “cyber kidnappers” because they are told their families will be killed unless they go along with the plot.
Chinese citizens living in the United States have been urged by the Chinese embassy to “increase safety awareness, take appropriate measures, and be watchful against ‘virtual abduction’ and other types of telecom and internet fraud,” according to Yahoo! News.
According to the Riverdale Police Department, international students, especially those from China, have been the targets of internet extortionists.