Kingston Police say international students defrauded ‘tens of thousands of dollars’ through targeted scam

Photo by Tori Stafford/Kingstonist.

With thousands of students coming to Kingston from all around the globe to attend a post-secondary institution, September is a time when many of those students settle into the city they plan to call home during the school year ahead.

Sadly, this tends to be a time of year when those international students become the targets of scams, which has led to students being defrauded of thousands of dollars, Kingston Police revealed on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023.

After local police posted to social media on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in an attempt to warn international students in the Limestone City of these scams, the Kingston Police Force further issued a press release the following day on the matter.

“The Kingston Police have received reports of international students being targeted by suspects claiming to be law enforcement from their home countries, particularly from the People’s Republic of China,” Kingston Police said.

“The suspects often claim that the victim’s information has been used to commit a fraud and they require proof that they are not part of the criminal enterprise. This may require the victim to share banking information or even make a payment. The suspects often claim to be working with the RCMP.”

While police said these most recently reported scams are new, the trend in these scams pops up annually around this time, according to officers with the Criminal Investigation Division. Kingston Police have received two reports of international students being targeted by these scams on the week beginning Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, the officers relayed.

So, how do the scammers contact or connect with the international students?

“Approach is made by telephone or online. In the most recent case, the suspects demanded the victim download Skype and make herself visible on video,” Detective Constable Anthony Hampton said in an email to Kingstonist.

Hampton noted that, in that case, the suspect connected with the victim on Skype, but had his camera turned off.

Sadly, the students who are targeted in these scams tend to lose “in the tens of thousands of dollars,” with one victim this week alone losing approximately $23,000, according to the Criminal Investigations Division. In 2022, one case saw a student lose over $100,000, Hampton relayed.

Police are advising international students to be aware of the following “red flags”:

  • Being contacted out of the blue
  • Being asked to keep that contact secret, especially when visiting your financial institution
  • Being asked to provide personal information
  • Being told to act immediately, or face being arrested

“Once money has been wired overseas, there is almost no possibility that police will be able to recover the funds,” Kingston Police said in the press release.

Officers advise anyone who has been approached in the manner outlined above, or who is suspicious of a recent contact with someone claiming to be with law enforcement, to contact Kingston Police directly at 613-549-4660.

Those who wish to make tips to police anonymously can do so by calling the Kingston Police general phone number (613-549-4660 ext. 0) and indicating that they would like to remain anonymous.

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