Exchange Student From China Found In Mountains In Suspected Cyber Kidnapping

( – A Chinese foreign exchange student, who was reported missing last month, has been found in a tent in Utah. Kai Zhuang was staying with a family in Riverdale, and his school reported his disappearance to police on December 29. His parents contacted the school after receiving a photo of their child that suggested he had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. The family transferred $80,000 to an account in China to secure his release, but he was located self-isolating in the Utah desert at the demand of so-called cyber kidnappers.

Riverdale Police said in a press release that “cyber kidnappers have been targeting foreign exchange students, in particular, Chinese foreign exchange students.”

Cyber kidnapping refers to a scam that leads families to believe a loved one has been kidnapped. Simultaneously, the loved one is warned that the family will be killed if they do not comply with specific demands, such as isolating themselves and “going missing.” The criminals then monitor the victim with video cameras and take pictures to send to family, reinforcing the kidnap scam.

The crime is among a slew of new offenses to emerge in the digital age and one of many scams aimed at taking people’s money when they are at their most vulnerable. The FBI warned last year that such scams are advancing and are more convincing and sophisticated than ever.

The most common online crimes include business email compromise (BSE), which occurs when scammers send emails pretending to be banks or government institutions and ask people to click on links that infiltrate their computers and steal information. Similarly, ransomware – software capable of collecting private information – is often sent to victims. Spoofing and phishing are processes by which people are lulled into false relationships or friendships and persuaded to hand over money.

In 2022, almost 900,000 cybercrimes were reported to the FBI, a 5% increase from 2021. The amount stolen rose from $6.9 billion to $10.2 billion.

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