Missing Exchange Student Victim of ‘Cyber-Kidnapping’

(TargetDailyNews.com) – Utah police found a Chinese exchange student cold and hungry after he kidnapped himself after receiving threatening digital communications. Authorities are calling the phenomenon a “cyber-kidnapping.”

Kai Zhuang, 17, was reported missing last week on Thursday, December 28th. His parents in China reached out to the school after receiving a ransom demand and a photograph of their son. They had already sent $80,000 to a Chinese bank account in response to demands and threats of violence against the boy.

Police were able to locate him at a makeshift camp in the mountains near Brigham City. They used his phone and bank records to find him. Police reported that the cybercriminals had instructed Zhuang to self-isolate. He had limited food, no heating available, and several cell phones that the “kidnappers” used to communicate with him.

The local fire department checked him out for cold-related injuries, and he was cleared of any medical concerns. He requested a cheeseburger and was provided with one. He also was able to speak with his family in China and assure them he was alright.

Police in Provo had picked him up on December 20th while he was ‘trying to camp’ but he was already being manipulated by the criminals at that time. He was returned to his host family but hadn’t reported the cybercriminals or threats.

When police went to his home on the 28th, his host family wasn’t aware he was missing. His host parents said the boy had spent the previous night at home and they heard him leave for school that morning. Police believe Zhuang was digitally coerced into kidnapping himself.

Riverdale police, the FBI, and Chinese officials all coordinated their response to find him. Police report that other Chinese exchange students have been targeted by similar scams when they travel to the U.S. The perpetrators make sweeping threats, order them to self-isolate, and then monitor them through technology without ever coming into physical contact with their victims.

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