VICTORIA -- Victoria police are warning the public about a “virtual kidnapping” scam that is increasingly targeting the Chinese community on Vancouver Island.

Investigators say the latest such scam was reported on April 18, when patrol officers were called to the 100-block of Harbour Road in Vic West.

Police say they discovered a woman who, six days earlier, was contacted by a Mandarin-speaking person who claimed to be the Chinese police.

“The woman was convinced that she needed to send money and other personal details to the scammer in order to protect her family at home in China,” VicPD said Wednesday.

“The scammer then used these personal details to convince the woman’s family in China that she was being held for ransom.”

Police say the scam was interrupted before any money was transferred to the scammer.

VicPD say such scams often target people from mainland China who are in their early 20s and are in Canada studying on a student visa. The victim typically receives a recorded phone message in Mandarin or Cantonese, often from a number that appears to be from a Chinese consulate or other authority.

“If the victim responds to the message, they are then informed that there is either a warrant for their arrest in China, or that the Chinese police need their help with an investigation,” Victoria police said.

“As part of the extortion, the scammer eventually convinces the victim to make fake videos or send photographs which indicate that he or she has been kidnapped or is the victim of a crime.”

Those videos and photographs are then sent to the victim’s family members, who are, in turn, extorted for money, police said.

Victoria detectives have investigated “several virtual kidnapping files,” including one in which “significant amounts of money have been extorted from worried families,” police said Wednesday.

Anyone who has been contacted for such a scam is asked to call the Victoria police non-emergency line at 250-995-7654, or other local police.