The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is warning the public of complex social engineering fraud and telephone scams currently targeting the Chinese community in Australia, particularly international students.
These fraud and scam activities are complex and target both Australian and international victims from non-English speaking backgrounds. Current known fraud and scam activity includes the false representation of:
- The Chinese Public Security Bureau or the “Virtual kidnap and extortion scam”
- The Australian Tax Office (ATO) or the “Tax impersonation scam”
- A Chinese Embassy official or the “Chinese embassy scam”
- A logistics provider or the “Package notification scam”
These scams rely on the victims maintaining contact with the scammers. Ongoing contact makes the scam appear legitimate and will eventually result in loss of funds from the victim or their family.
These scams include receiving a call or a message which indicates:
- You are wanted for tax avoidance and immediate payment is required to avoid arrest
- You have a package or letter from a Chinese Government official, which alleges you are implicated in criminal activity either in Australia or overseas
Other indicators that you are being targeted by scammers and fraudsters include:
- Repeated requests for increasing levels of personal information
- Being threatened with deportation or arrest if you do not cooperate
- Being put in contact with multiple people who say they are members of the Chinese Public Security Bureau
- Demands to only communicate via encrypted video and online chat applications such as WhatsApp, WeChat and QQ
- Being coerced into isolating yourself by cutting off contact with friends and family
- Being coerced into moving out of your home and into accommodation such as a hotel or apartment
- Members of your family being contacted by the scammers with demands to pay an extortion or ransom
Many of these scams include constant messaging not to contact the authorities, police or their local Chinese embassy or consulate.
Protect yourself – Be aware – Get Educated
The Australian Government, its agencies will not contact you over the phone to ask you to provide personal information or to coerce payment for offences.
Chinese Officials will not advise you of legal cases over the phone or ask you to verify personal information over the phone.
The Australian government will never seek payment for fines over the phone through bitcoin, iTunes, GooglePlay, Steam or online vouchers, or money wire transfers.
If you receive a call you think is a scam or a fraud, never respond to the call or follow the message prompts to call back.
- If you want to validate whether the call is legitimate, disconnect the call, look up the number or find the official agency website for their listed contact number. Manually enter that number, never press redial.
If you think someone is trying to scam you, or you’ve been scammed, the AFP advises to cease all contact with the scammer and contact your local police or consulate immediately.
- If you’re in doubt, talk it over with your friends and family. The Australian government and Chinese government officials will never try to isolate you from your friends or family.
- If you know someone who you think is being scammed or has indicated they are being contacted by scammers, you can help them by talking about it and reporting it.
Scams take advantage of people’s trust in authorities and fear of doing the wrong thing. Victims can feel an array of emotions – from helplessness and humiliation to anger and guilt – but it’s important to know you are not to blame and there is help at hand.