SINGAPORE – A student from China enrolled in an art college in Singapore has been rescued from his kidnappers in Cambodia after falling for a government official impersonation scam.
Law enforcement agencies from several countries, including Singapore, were involved in the operation, the Chinese Embassy in Singapore said in a statement on June 10.
It added that the student is safe, but did not disclose his whereabouts and that his parents did not lose any money in the process.
The student was contacted on June 2 by scammers, who told him that the authorities wanted him.
They instructed him to fly to the coastal city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia and go into hiding. But once he arrived there, the scammers held him captive and took a video for his parents.
They then sent the footage to the student’s parents and demanded a ransom of 3 million yuan (S$562,000) for his release.
The Chinese Embassy in Singapore said after the parents filed a police report on June 4, it contacted the Chinese Embassy in Cambodia to organize rescue efforts with the local police.
It led to an operation involving law enforcement from multiple countries, including Singapore. The Chinese Embassy in Singapore said the student was found and rescued by Cambodian police on June 5, adding that no ransom money was paid.
In the statement, the Chinese Embassy in Singapore also issued an advisory for Chinese students in Singapore to be alert to scams.
It said the Singapore authorities would never ask for their personal information over the phone, adding that they should also never disclose their name, address, family situation, or bank details when receiving calls from unknown numbers.
The Chinese Embassy in Singapore said if students do fall victim, or suspect they have fallen victim to a scam, they should contact the authorities immediately.
The incident comes amid a warning by Interpol of a “global human trafficking crisis”, with scammers tricking tens of thousands of victims into human-trafficking schemes in criminal hubs in Southeast Asia.
The international police organization, which issued an Orange Notice on June 7, said victims are kidnapped and detained in inhuman living conditions, and often beaten and sexually abused.
They are also forced into criminal activities, including investment fraud, love scams, and frauds linked to cryptocurrency investing and online gambling.
Acting coordinator of Interpol’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit, Mr. Isaac Espinoza, said these syndicates are now targeting the educated.
He said: “These criminal groups are now targeting people who are actually highly qualified, people who have university degrees, who are trained in IT and who are tech-savvy.”
He added that the scam centers are known to be concentrated in Cambodia, but several have also been identified in Laos and Myanmar.
There were 771 cases of government official impersonation scams reported in Singapore in 2022, with more than $97.6 million lost.
There has also been a significant number of such scams this year, with the police saying in April that at least 62 people had lost some $6.9 million to government official impersonation scams since the start of the year.
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