The ACCC has warned Australia's Chinese community of a recurring scam that involves threats of arrest and extortion via fake kidnappings.
Having already caused victims $1.15 million worth of losses, the perpetrators appear to be targeting Chinese Australians nationwide.
The terrifying scam comes in two forms but mostly threatens Chinese people living in Australia with extradition and arrest.
The scam begins with a voice, speaking in Mandarin, which calls victims directly and leaves an 'urgent' voice message to call back.
This scammer will then impersonate a parcel delivery service and/or a Chinese authority, claiming the victim is in serious trouble. A common ploy is that the scammers have intercepted a package addressed to the victim which contains fraudulent documents, for example fake passports.
They then threaten the victim with extradition to China to face criminal charges in court unless money is sent. They will claim the money is needed to prove the victim's innocence while they investigate the crime.
The ACCC says it has received multiple reports of this scam in the past month, which ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard says is "cruel" especially as it is targeting young Chinese students studying in Australia.
"These scams are particularly nasty and worryingly we're seeing a dramatic spike in the Chinese community being targeted," says Rickard.
"In May, there was a 400 per cent increase in reports of these scams and losses more than doubled."
Rickard says the scam doesn't just stop at threatening extradition. Several reports have surfaced that perpetrators also make threats which involve the family members of victims, tricking them into thinking their loved ones have been kidnapped.
"The scammer will again claim to student victims that they have been involved in criminal activity and threaten them, and even their family, with criminal sanctions unless they pretend they have been kidnapped, including by taking photos of themselves bound and gagged," says Rickard.
"Scammers will then use these photos to extort money from the student's family by claiming the student has been kidnapped."
Rickard says Chinese students in Australia need to be vigilant, and hang up the phone and report the call to the police if they receive a call like this.
"If you're ever called by someone making threats about arrest or deportation, it is a scam," says Rickard.
"It's very frightening to receive these calls and scammers use your fear against you so you'll send them money or participate in a bogus kidnapping.
"Don't fall for their threats. Instead, hang up the phone and report it to your local police. If you think the scammer has your bank account details, contact your bank immediately."
Members of the Chinese community in Australia can also report the scam at www.scamwatch.gov.au.
Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Business News Australia
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support