Teenage victim of "cyber-kidnapping" found alone in remote mountains

Last week, Kai Zhuang, 17, a Chinese exchange student living in Riverdale, Utah, disappeared. His high school called police after his family in China said that they had been notified the boy had been kidnapped. The family told police that after "continuous threats," they sent $80,000 to a US bank to secure his release. Fortunately, police have found the boy "alive but very cold and scared" inside a tent in the remote mountains of Brigham City.

It seems that he had put himself in hiding "was isolating himself at the direction of the cyber kidnappers," as the perpetrators were described by police.

From the Washington Post:

Exchange students, particularly from China, are often targeted in virtual kidnapping cases, Warren said, adding that victims "often comply out of fear that their families will be harmed if they do not comply with the cyber kidnappers."

According to the FBI, while the crime can take on myriad forms, it is "always an extortion scheme" in which families are tricked to believe a loved one has been abducted and are coerced into paying a fee, though the person claimed to be missing has not actually been taken. Families are often sent voice recordings and photos by the perpetrators in a bid to convince them that the crime is taking place, the Riverdale police statement said.

An increasingly common scam, the FBI says that it "is always an extortion scheme that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death." The criminals keep tabs on the victim via Skype or FaceTime.

(Thanks, Chanté McCormick!)