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FBI warns of cyber scheme that led to exchange student's disappearance

The bureau is warning about a cyber kidnapping scheme that led to the disappearance of a Chinese student in Utah and cost his parents $80,000.
The FBI seal.
Posted at 1:36 PM, Jan 05, 2024

The FBI has issued a warning about cyber kidnapping after a Chinese foreign exchange student and his family fell victim to the scheme last week.

The agency is advising people — specifically Chinese college students attending American universities — to be on the lookout for potential criminals who may be impersonating Chinese police officers in order to defraud them for monetary reasons.

"The criminal actors tell victims they are being investigated for an alleged financial crime in China and need to pay to avoid arrest," the FBI said in a statement. "The criminal actors then direct victims to consent to 24/7 video and audio monitoring."

Missing Chinese exchange student found alive in Utah
A Chinese foreign exchange student steps out of a tent after being found alive in Utah.

Missing Chinese exchange student found alive in Utah

A cyber kidnapping scheme tricked the 17-year-old boy's parents into transferring approximately $80,000 to bank accounts in China.


The warning comes just days after Utah police were able to locate a foreign exchange high school student who had been missing for several days. Authorities found the teen isolated in a tent in a wooded area at the order of online kidnappers. His parents ended up transferring approximately $80,000 to bank accounts in China after receiving a photo of their son and a demand for ransom.  

In some instances, the FBI said cyber kidnappers will instruct victims to lie to friends and family in order to secure additional money, or to facilitate similar schemes against other Chinese students. The agency advised people to end all contact with any unknown individual who contacts them about an alleged crime they committed and to not share any personal or financial information with the person. 

If you or someone you know has fallen victim to fraudulent or suspicious online activity, the FBI is urging you to report it to the bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center at