Video released by Australian police Monday (July 27) shows a disturbing sight -- what appears to be a person with hands and feet bound and tied up, in what police are calling a 'virtual kidnapping' scam targeting Chinese students in Sydney.
Police say the scam has already obtained millions in payments from unsuspecting victims.
New South Wales official Darren Bennett explained the scam to reporters on Monday.
"The offense types are very disparate in their range, they can form the intent to create a scam kidnapping where people communicate to their family overseas and pretend they have been kidnapped on instruction from a fraudster ringing them on the telephone."
Scammers call up the victims they plan to target, claiming to be from a Chinese authority like the police or tax department, according to a statement released by the NSW police.
The caller then quote "convinces the victim they have been implicated in a crime in China, or that their identity has been stolen, and that they must pay a fee to avoid legal action, arrest or deportation."
Bennett called the crimes quote "egregious" and "very cruel."
"But a recent one that we have had was essentially threatening harm against people, family members in China unless they contrive a photograph that makes them look like they have been kidnapped. Then they encourage the person to lock themselves away in a hotel room, turn their phones off, cease all contact. So the people in China have got a two-pronged threat, they have got this photo of their loved one and they can't get in touch with their loved one."
Bennett also warned that the phone calls are becoming very common -- and encouraged anyone receiving one not to fall for the scam.