Strange US kidnap trend targeting Chinese students

Kai Zhuang is alleged to be a victim of cyber kidnapping Photo Courtesy: Riverdale Police Department via BBC

Kathmandu: The “cyber kidnapping” scam that extorted the Chinese family of a foreign exchange student studying in the US is part of a larger criminal trend that parents across the globe could fall victim to, experts warned.

Student Kai Zhuang was reported missing by his high school last week and later found “very cold and scared” in a tent in rural Utah after anonymous scammers convinced the 17-year-old to isolate himself, according to local police.

Once the teenager was alone in the wilderness, officials said the kidnappers sent a ransom demand and a picture – that Zhuang took of himself – to his parents in China and claimed he had been abducted. Zhuang’s family eventually paid $80,000 (£62,600) to the perpetrators.

Experts told the BBC that advancements in technology have made it easier for criminals to pursue cyber kidnapping schemes. While there is no clear data on the number of cases, they said, Zhuang’s experience is not an isolated occurrence.

“The way it’s being perpetrated in most cases, [it] could happen to anyone,” said Joseph Steinberg, a cyber security expert who has advised business firms and governments. “The crimes have gotten much more targeted and much more expensive.”

News Source: BBC