Waterloo regional police say since October 2022 police have been investigating two incidents targeting international Chinese students at post-secondary institutions in Waterloo region.

Police said approximately $245,000 has been lost in these two scams.

“This extortion scam involves fraudsters contacting the victim through an automated phone message impersonating Chinese officials,” police said. “The fraudsters often advise the victim that they have been linked to crimes in China in order to coerce the victim into a series of actions, including, in some cases, pretending to have been a victim of a crime, such as a kidnapping. The victims are threatened that failure to take these actions would result in their arrest or harm to their families.”

Police said the victim’s family in China may also be contacted by someone claiming to be a Chinese official and demanding money.

Law enforcement and government agencies will not demand payment from you or threaten you or your family, police said.

Police have offered the following tips:

  • Do not follow instructions from automated callers speaking Mandarin.
  • Any legitimate contact from Chinese authorities will be through the local police.
  • Do not give out personal information, especially banking information, over the phone.
  • Ask for the information in writing.
  • Hang up.
  • Your local police are here to help you. You can reach out to the police if you feel threatened.


Chinese international students at the University of Waterloo said the scam is worrisome.

“Yes, because this sounds like what the [Chinese] government would do,” said Annika Cheng who is originally from Hong Kong. “It actually freaks people out because we do care about our families.”

Cheng said it’s common for Chinese officials to leave automated phone messages, making it difficult to differentiate between a real message and a scam message.

“It will make me worried,” said Kevin Zhou, a Chinese international student.

Students said moving forward they will be more cautious when answering a call from an unknown phone number.

“Try not to transfer money to them and don’t put information about your personal credit card or other information related to you,” said Chinese student Brian Wang.