Chinese Exchange Student Recovered After Cyber Kidnapping

( – Over the past few decades, technology has become a staple in households and workplaces around the world. While it has many benefits, it has also birthed different types of criminal activity. One of those is known as cyber-kidnapping. In these cases, the victim isn’t actually kidnapped, but bad actors make it appear that they have been in a scheme to coerce loved ones to pay a ransom. They convince victims to isolate themselves and take pictures, threatening harm to them or their families if they refuse to comply. Police in Utah recently found a Chinese exchange student who was reported missing after his family in China received a ransom request.

According to a press release, the Riverdale Police Department was contacted on December 28 around 8:30 p.m. with a report of a missing child. Officials at the high school where 17-year-old Kai Zhuang attended said they heard from his parents that they received a photo indicating he was abducted. The police department then connected with the victim’s family in China, who revealed they had sent around $80,000 to bank accounts in China.

The Riverdale Police then began working with multiple agencies, including the FBI, the US Embassy in China, and Chinese officials, to locate Zhuang. During the course of the investigation, which is how they learned about the practice of cyber kidnapping, authorities turned up the fact that the teen had been seen in Provo, Utah, with camping gear on December 20. Provo police returned him to Riverdale to his host family, but at that time he was already under duress from the cyber kidnapper(s).

Zhuang was eventually found in a wooded area in a tent in Brigham City. The police said he was safe but very cold and visibly scared, though he was relieved to see the police. He had minimal resources but had several phones, which authorities believe were used to carry out the cyber kidnapping. When he was safe, he asked the police to let his family know he was safe and requested a warm cheeseburger.

The Riverdale Police then took the time to alert the public to the crime of cyber kidnapping. Anyone who becomes a target should contact local authorities immediately and discontinue contact with the suspects.

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