Chinese Embassy Scam
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received multiple complaints from victims who were contacted via phone, text or other chat application by individuals speaking a Chinese dialect and claiming to be from the Chinese embassy or consulate. Other victims reported being contacted by individuals claiming to be from a shipping company stating there is a package waiting for the victim at the Chinese embassy. The phone calls are frequently spoofed1 in order to appear from a legitimate source.
In some variations of this scam, victims may be first told that a suspicious document, package, or person was found or detained, usually at an airport located in China. The person on the phone claims the victim's passport, social security card, or credit card was found to be in the package or on the suspicious person. Victims are then told they are under investigation and, in order to assist Chinese law enforcement, they must speak to an investigator.
In another variation of the scam, victims are contacted by individuals claiming to be from Chinese credit card companies saying they have overdue balances. Victims are instructed they must work with Chinese law enforcement to address the outstanding payment.
Victims are then transferred to "investigators," who advise victims they must wire funds to accounts located almost exclusively in China or Hong Kong to resolve the situation. Victims may also be requested to pay via credit card or virtual currency.2 If the victims do not cooperate, they are threatened with deportation, loss of assets, and/or jail.
If victims do not have the requested funds, the scammers may ask them to obtain a loan. They may also be requested to check in daily via an online chat application3 until payment is made.
Victims may be asked to keep silent about these events and not tell friends and family. It has been reported that criminal actors may contact victims' families at this same time to report their relative was kidnapped and demand a ransom. The criminal actors are then able to extort money from both original victims and their families.
Criminal actors may lend legitimacy to the scam by providing copies of documents with victims' pictures, passport numbers, social security cards, or financial data. They may also encourage victims to verify Chinese law enforcement phone numbers via the internet before they speak to investigators.
Between December 2017 and February 2019, the IC3 received more than 350 complaints from victims of this scam reporting a combined loss of more than $40 million USD. The average loss of victims reporting a loss is more than $164,000 USD.
The majority of victims filing with IC3 have names of Asian descent. Many of these victims reported themselves as students or visiting university faculty from China.
Victims from 27 states have reported this scam to the IC3, with 35% of victims residing in California and New York.
The number of complaints and amount of loss reported to IC3 reached a peak in May-June 2018, and again in December 2018-January 2019.
Suggestions For Protection
If contacted by a number appearing to be from the Chinese embassy or consulate and/or a Chinese credit card company, always verify through outside sources the caller is legitimate.
The Chinese embassy or consulate will not contact you by phone for personal information, parcel pick-up, bank account information, or to answer inquiries from local Chinese law enforcement.4
Be wary of any requests for secrecy.
If you are contacted by fraudulent sources or fall victim to this scam, please file a complaint regardless of dollar loss with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.
1. Spoofing is the act of disguising communication from an unknown source as being from a known and trusted source..
2. Virtual Currency is a form of digital currency that represents monetary value in electronic format.
3. Online Chat is a form of internet communication that offers real-time transmission of text messages from sender to receiver.
4. www.china-embassy.org, Phone Scam Alert 4/19/2018