The National Anti-Scam Centre has raised an alarm about a significant increase in sophisticated scams targeting Chinese students in Australia, with culprits posing as Chinese police officers to intimidate and swindle students.
In August 2023, reported scams of this nature doubled, leading to significant distress among the students and losses amounting to approximately $8.7 million this year. While the idea of scams is alarming, being equipped with the right knowledge can empower you to detect and avoid them effectively.
Read on to understand the details of these scams, learn the warning signs, and gain practical tips from the National Anti-Scam Centre.
How the scams work
Understanding how these scams operate is crucial for prevention so let’s look at how they unfold. Initially, scammers initiate contact by pretending to represent banks or phone companies. They inform the students that their identity is involved in a crime. Then, the call is transferred to another scammer posing as a Chinese police officer.
They threaten the students with deportation or extradition unless a payment is made to resolve the alleged investigation. In some instances, scammers visit students’ homes in police attire or observe them continuously through video technology.
- You receive a call, message, or email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a phone company, bank, government department, or trusted company.
- The caller claims that someone is using your identity or alleges you have carried out or are involved in a serious criminal matter.
- You are told you need to prove your innocence.
- You are threatened with legal action, arrest, or deportation.
- The caller tells you that to fix the matter you will need to pay a fee, fine, bond or bail money.
- You are told not to speak about this matter with anyone.
- You may be told to keep your camera on all the time as you are under surveillance.
- The caller may ask for your personal information, such as your passport details, date of birth or bank information.
- Don’t be pressured by a threatening caller asking you to prove you have not been involved in a crime. Hang up and don’t respond.
- If someone tells you that you are being investigated, speak to the local police in Australia, the international student support body of your university or your local Australian-Chinese community support service.
- Don’t engage with the caller and do not follow their instructions.
- Never leave your camera on because someone has instructed you to.
- If you are concerned for your safety, contact the police immediately by calling 000.
Top tips to avoid scams
Here are some guidelines from the National Anti-Scam Centre to avoid scams in general.
Stop – Don’t give money or personal information to anyone if unsure. Scammers will try to verify who you are or use fear to make you believe their story. Don’t rush to act. Take your time and don’t give money or personal information.
Think – Ask yourself, ‘Could the call be fake?’ Scammers pretend to be from organisations you know and trust. Contact the organisation using information that you source independently so that you can verify if the call is real or not. If you’re not sure, hang up.
Protect – Act quickly if something feels wrong. Contact the police if you have been harassed or intimidated. Contact your bank if you have lost money to a scammer. Seek help from IDCARE and report to Scamwatch.
For more information on scams and safety tips, check out our article Cyber Security 101: How to Outsmart Scammers & Stay Safe Online