A telephone scam which persuades people to stage their own kidnapping before blackmailing their family into handing over thousands of pounds could be on the rise in the UK.

Criminals had concentrated their efforts on duping victims based in Taiwan and China but, after a crackdown, they have moved on to Australia, the US, and Canada.

The Chinese Embassy in London has issued a warning that ‘several’ cases had been recorded in the UK. The warning follows similar notice from the Chinese consulate in New York in August of last year.

Virtual kidnapping

Some of the victims’ fake hostage photos | Photo supplied by Victoria Police

The scam – which has mainly targeted mandarin speakers but is now operating in English – begins with fraudsters imitating senior officials from embassies and anti-crime organisations.

The victims are told that they are implicated in a serious crime and must cut off all contact with family and friends. They are also told to set up their own kidnapping photo by tying themselves up or recording a video of themselves seemingly in distress.

These are then sent to the victim’s family with a ransom demand. Because the victims have been told not to make contact, families are convinced that the kidnapping is legitimate.

The Chinese embassy has suggested that anyone who believes they are a target should call British police and contact the Chinese embassy or consulate in Britain to verify the situation.