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Chinese Foreign Exchange Student Found Following Cyper Kidnapping

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A foreign exchange student who went missing last Thursday in a case of “cyber kidnapping” was found safely in a tent at a Utah mountainside and returned to his family.

As reported by BBC, Student Kai Zhuang, 17, was first reported missing by his high school last week and was later found “cold and scared” inside a tent in Utah’s Brigham City canyon. 

According to local police, Zhuang had gone missing after anonymous scammers told him to isolate himself. Zhuang’s family in China paid out 80,000 (£62,600) to the perpetrators after they demanded a ransom and sent them a picture that Zhuang himself took and sent to his parents in China.

Experts told the BBC that technological advancements have given criminals further opportunities to carry out cyber kidnapping schemes. 

“The way it’s being perpetrated in most cases, [it] could happen to anyone,” said Joseph Steinberg, a cyber security expert who has advised business firms and governments. “The crimes have gotten much more targeted and much more expensive.”

Police say that kidnappers began manipulating the Zhuan t as early as 20 December, when he was seen with camping equipment in Utah.

Steinberg explained that cyber kidnappings take place when criminals call or message a victim to trick them into thinking a loved one has been kidnapped, even though the person is actually safe.

Victims have alleged hearing screaming on the phone when talking to perpetrators who makes them think their loved one is in danger.

“They will do anything to keep you on the phone,” Marie-Helen Maras, the Center for Cybercrime Studies director at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said. “They’ll threaten to cause harm if you hang up or if you try to contact anyone to frighten their targets into making rushed decisions.”

Several cyber kidnapping cases involving Chinese foreign exchange students in other countries, including Canada and Australia, have taken place, according to Dr Maras, who has studied cyber kidnapping cases.

Mr Steinberg expressed concern about using artificial intelligence to impersonate loved ones’ voices and force them into paying ransoms.

“The technology has reached a point where even loving parents who know their kids really well can be tricked,” he said.

Photo Courtesy: ‘Missing Chinese exchange student found in Utah woods after cyber kidnapping’/ABC News via YouTube/1/04/23 @9:20am

Video Courtesy: ABC News via YouTube


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.

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The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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