Message from Cornell Police to Cornellians from China
October 2019—Cornell University Police (CUPD) have become aware of an emerging extortion scheme targeting Chinese citizens. The scheme has been active overseas, in Canada, and recently is emerging in the United States. Locally, two Cornell community members recently have been victimized. The scheme is quite elaborate and involves some, or all, of the following details. Please be informed and take precautions.
How the Scheme is Attempted
Cornell Police is providing this information to inform Chinese citizens of this emerging scheme:
- Victims are contacted via phone by persons claiming to be a Chinese government official, U.S. Customs official, or some other entity indicating that the victim is involved in criminal activity. The victim is probed for personal information, which is used later in the scheme.
- Victims are transferred to a person claiming to be a Chinese police officer and are advised they have been identified as being involved in criminal activity and are shown fraudulent documents including arrest warrants.
- The victim will typically be transferred to another person who alleges to be a Chinese prosecutor who will threaten deportation and demand payment to expedite the investigation or to post as “bail.” If at first successful, the suspects will make multiple follow-up communications with the victim demanding more money.
- In some circumstances, the suspects will demand compromising pictures or videos of the victim, which make the victim appear isolated and distressed and that are later used as a means to “virtually kidnap” the victim and demand ransom from the victim’s family in China. Some victims have been directed to physically isolate themselves at a hotel/motel, purchase a new cell phone, and stop using social media and other websites to further legitimize the “virtual kidnapping” scheme.
- Communications between victims and perpetrators initially is via phone, and calling phone numbers are “spoofed” to appear to be legitimate phone numbers. Over the course of the scheme, messaging apps such as WeChat and MiLiao are also utilized. Communication is in Chinese and not English.
As is typical in these types of schemes, the circumstances tend to evolve and may not completely fit the above script, but will maintain certain similarities.