Lo­cal po­lice warn of scam tar­get­ing Chi­nese stu­dents

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - NATALIE PAD­DON

Lo­cal schools are warn­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents about a scam tar­get­ing Chi­nese na­tion­als study­ing in Canada af­ter two cases have been re­ported to Hamil­ton po­lice.

McMaster Univer­sity, Mo­hawk Col­lege and Columbia In­ter­na­tional Col­lege say they are get­ting the word out as po­lice look into the in­ci­dents.

Po­lice launched their in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter two Mac stu­dents — a male and a fe­male — could not be reached by their fam­i­lies back in China Fri­day night, said Jackie Pen­man, spokesper­son for Hamil­ton po­lice.

The stu­dents had been con­tacted, told their credit cards or bank cards had been com­pro­mised, and were in­structed not to use their cell­phones or

There are peo­ple out there that want to take ad­van­tage of stu­dents. SEAN VAN KOUGHNETT

get in touch with their fam­i­lies, she said.

The scam­mers then con­tacted the stu­dents’ fam­i­lies, telling them their chil­dren had been kid­napped and de­mand­ing a large ransom.

When the fam­ily mem­bers tried con­tact­ing their loved ones and could not reach them, they got in touch with friends in the area who alerted po­lice, Pen­man said.

Po­lice lo­cated the stu­dents within hours — the male stu­dent was found at his home ad­dress and the fe­male was found in Kitch­ener by Water­loo po­lice.

“Hamil­ton po­lice con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate and make the pub­lic aware that this scam is out there,” Pen­man said.

“If you’re pre­sented with a sce­nario that you need to act upon im­me­di­ately and you’re not given the op­tion to con­tact the or­ga­ni­za­tion at a later time, it’s not a le­git­i­mate agency.”

If that hap­pens, she sug­gested peo­ple call po­lice and record the num­ber, if pos­si­ble.

Po­lice have been in touch with Mac, Mo­hawk, Columbia as well as the pub­lic and Catholic school boards and in­de­pen­dent schools so they can warn their in­ter­na­tional stu­dents about the scam, Pen­man said.

Toronto po­lice have pub­li­cized three sim­i­lar in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Chi­nese stu­dents who were re­ported miss­ing last week, but have since been found.

Sean Van Koughnett, as­so­ciate vice-pres­i­dent of stu­dents and learn­ing and dean of stu­dents at McMaster, said the univer­sity has posted a warn­ing on its Daily News web­site and is get­ting the word out through so­cial me­dia and its In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Ser­vices’ of­fice.

“Un­for­tu­nately, there are peo­ple out there that want to take ad­van­tage of stu­dents who are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble,” he said. “Our firstyear stu­dents, some of them are only 17. They are thou­sands of miles away from home.”

“These per­pe­tra­tors — they know who their au­di­ence is and they know they are tar­get­ing in­no­cent and of­ten naïve young peo­ple who, if they po­si­tion them­selves as an au­thor­ity, these stu­dents will lis­ten to them,” he added.

Mo­hawk spokesper­son Jay Robb said the col­lege is warn­ing its 2,000 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents through email, posters and so­cial me­dia. A ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion is also in the works.

At Columbia Col­lege, school an­nounce­ments and elec­tronic mes­sage boards are broad­cast­ing the warn­ing to stu­dents, said prin­ci­pal Steve Saun­ders.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to con­tact Det. Const. David Tsuchida at 905-546-4861.

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