If there's anything criminals love cutting more than the glass encasing a massive diamond, it's corners. They'll always let the honest schmoes do the heavy lifting while they lift their wallets. So why go through the hassle of kidnapping people, dragging them to your lair, and bandaging the stumps where their thumbs used to be when you can just get your victims to do all the work for you?

Recently, Australian police reported a new crime wave happening down under: virtual kidnappings. Posing as Chinese officials, con artists will cold call hundreds of international Chinese students and inform they're in great legal trouble and will face deportation if they don't immediately pay their steep fines. Those few who bite are given instructions on how to fake their own kidnapping and force their families back home to wire them hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Bizarre Scam Has Chinese Students In Australia Kidnapping Themselves
New South Wales Police
If that's perfectly normal advice to get from Chinese law enforcement, no wonder these kids are scared shitless.

To be clear: At no time are these students in any form of real danger. They haven't even been targeted per se, as virtual kidnappers tend to cold-call every Chinese name registered to an Australian university. But their parents don't know that when they suddenly get a picture of their faraway children tied up to a hotel radiator coming from their kids' phones. When one Chinese dad, after already paying over $1.4 million, was still being milked for money and desperately called the Australian police. They set up a rescue team who, through steely determination and expert tracking, found their kidnapee just chilling in their own home. 

Bizarre Scam Has Chinese Students In Australia Kidnapping Themselves
New South Wales Police
Who tucks in their gut to look good on their ransom photo?

And our current pandemic is making these kinds of scary scams even easier to pull off. Australian police have noted a steep rise in recent virtual kidnapping cases, with 25 ongoing investigations logged in May 2020 alone. They believe this has a lot to do with the incredible social isolation international students, now trapped in their host nation, feel making it much easier for these virtual kidnappers to put them under their "psychological control" -- proving that you can indeed develop Stockholm Syndrome via Zoom chats. 

For more weird tangents and feeling like you've been virtually kidnapped, do follow Cedric on Twitter

Top Image: Victoria Police, NSW Police

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