Cyber Kidnapping


  • Recently, a Chinese student who was a victim of ‘cyber kidnapping’ has been found in rural Utah and is unharmed.
  • Kai Zhuang, was reported to go on missing from December 28.
  • By the time the police traced him safely, his parents back in China had already paid $80,000 in ransom.
  • He was found in a tent which is about 40 km north of Brigham City where he seems to have self-isolated himself.

What is cyber kidnapping?

  • It refers to a crime where the ‘kidnappers’ convince their victim to hide, and then contact their loved ones for the sake of ransom.
  • The victim is also asked to send pictures that make it look like they are being held captive by the kidnappers.
  • These photos are then shared with the family. Both parties believe that their loved ones will be harmed if they don’t do as the kidnappers ask them to do.
  • The ‘kidnappers’ even though not physically present but they monitor the victim online through video-call platforms.
  • Even though virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is generally an extortion scheme one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one.
  • Unlike traditional kidnaps virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped the victim.
  • Instead, through the deceptions and threats the kidnapers coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.
  • It is believed that with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, such crimes can also rise, as scammers can send people voice notes that sound exactly similar to the loved one in distress.

How to protect oneself?

  • It is recommended to be extra careful with calls from unknown numbers even though cyber criminals can also make it appear like they are calling from a loved one’s contact number.
  • Scammers can also use data that one have shared on social media to make their calls more convincing and appealing, so one must be careful of sharing information online.
  • It is also wise to checking up on loved ones before making any payments.

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