Cyber Kidnapping picks pace in the United States

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Attention to all Chinese-origin students currently participating in exchange programs in the United States: Be aware that there is a growing threat of ‘Cyber Kidnapping’ targeting individuals who are not vigilant. Hackers have been contacting parents in China, pressuring them to pay a significant sum for the release of their children studying in America.

This deceptive scheme involves coercing both parties into paying a substantial amount (approximately $80,000), which ultimately ends up in the digital wallets of these cyber criminals.

A recent case involves Kai Zhuang, a 17-year-old student who was reported missing by his parents on December 28th, 2023. However, investigations revealed that the student had willingly gone to a remote location, deliberately avoiding technology and law enforcement.

The Utah police played a crucial role in resolving the situation swiftly. They utilized data such as purchase history, phone records, and the geo-location of the kidnapped student’s mobile device to track him down to a remote mountainous region, where he was found in a tent, suffering from severe cold and fear.

The FBI has taken note of this incident and issued a warning, stating that such cases have seen an increase in the past few months. Additionally, they highlighted the use of deep fake technology and AI tools by cyber criminals in virtual kidnapping. In these instances, the perpetrators manipulate a student’s or an employee’s image or video, creating a misleading visual content that is then sent to their family or friends to extract money. By the time the parties involved realize the deception, the hackers have already collected the funds and vanished.

The Student Exchange Program, which encourages students to study abroad in partner institutions, is a valuable opportunity for academic and cultural growth. Participants not only gain new academic perspectives but also immerse themselves in different cultures, lifestyles, and languages, making them highly employable in the global job market.

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Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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