Utah, January 2: A Chinese exchange student fell victim to a cyber kidnapping fraud in which his parents were blackmailed for $80,000, according to authorities. The victim was found alive but 'cold and scared' in a tent in the Utah desert in the United States. Kai Zhuang, a seventeen-year-old student at his host high school in Riverdale, Utah, was reported missing on Thursday after his parents in China notified authorities that he seemed to have been abducted and that a ransom had been demanded.

The case followed the usual pattern for cyber-kidnapping, wherein the kidnappers instruct the victim to isolate themselves and send images of themselves as though they are in captivity. The victim's family receives the photos in exchange for a ransom demand. The victims cooperate because they think something bad would happen to their family otherwise. Indian School Student Missing From Home in US for More Than Three Weeks; Police Suspect She Ran Away Over Fear of Deportation.

During a day-long hunt, authorities examined bank data, purchase records, and phone ping records and were certain that he was withdrawing to a tent some 25 miles (40 km) north in a vast region close to Brigham City. After he was found on Sunday, December 31, 2023, the Riverdale Police Department said in a press release, “Due to the cold weather in Utah this time of year, we became additionally concerned for the victim's safety in that he may freeze to death overnight.”

Walking up a slope on foot, a the police found Kai's tent—which included only "a heat blanket, a sleeping bag, limited food and water and several phones that were presumed to be used to carry out the cyber kidnapping, without any kind of heat source" according to the department. The police officer "contacted the victim inside the tent and found he was alive but very cold and scared." According to Riverdale police, Kai "requested a warm cheeseburger" and a chance to talk with his family, who had sent $80,000 to bank accounts in China as part of the fraudster scheme. Virtual Kidnapping in Maharashtra: Cyber Police Advises Parents to be Cautious of Internet Crooks.

After hearing him in the kitchen early on the day of his abduction, Kai's Riverdale host family had no idea he was absent at first. According to the press statement, Riverdale police collaborated with the FBI, the US consulate in China, and Chinese authorities to locate the missing teenager.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 02, 2024 01:33 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).