If you get this call, hang up immediately
IN RECENT months, you may have been confused by a voicemail left on your phone in Mandarin.
Whether you understand it or not, authorities have warned smartphone users to hang up immediately.
Police have warned of a phone scam targeting Chinese nationals in Australia by pretending to be from the embassy and demanding a large sum of money.
"We have offenders contacting victims on the phone purporting to be from the Chinese Embassy, and saying victims either committed an offence or had their identity stolen. As a result, victims are asked to pay fines or a debt," Financial Crimes Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett told a conference Wednesday afternoon.
"I want to stress that the Chinese Embassy would never contact a victim to pay money over the phone.
"We've had incidents where the victim is threatened, or their family back in China is threatened."
She said there have been cases where the victim didn't have any money. In these cases, the victim was instructed to stage a kidnapping so they could get money overseas from their parents.
The scam has reaped in millions of dollars, targeting victims across Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. One victim in NSW had $1.9 million stolen.
According to Det Supt Howlett, there have been at least 50 reports of this incident across NSW, with three calls this week alone.
But she said a lot of the victims still aren't coming forward, urging people receiving the calls to hang up and let the authorities know.
Variations of this scam have been reported recently. In another one, an automated voice in Mandarin claiming to be calling on behalf of the Chinese Embassy tells the listener they had an important parcel to collect.
They are encouraged to press 9, at which point they are transferred to a scammer who tries to take their personal details.
China's Deputy Consul-General in Sydney Tong Xuejun said more than 1000 cases had been reported since August last year.
"We have confirmed about 40 cases that caused a loss. The total amount of money involved is about $10 million," he said, adding that the money lost ranged from $2000 to one case of $3.5 million.
In another, the scammer tells the victim they are involved in a crime like money-laundering or embezzlement, and threatens them with jail or deportation unless they pay a hefty sum to get a "priority investigation" to clear their name.
They also try to extract sensitive information like passport numbers, bank details and addresses.
According to Scamwatch, if the money is sent to the scammer, it is likely lost and extremely difficult to recover.
Many non-Chinese people have reported getting the calls too, and being left confused.
The Chinese Consulate-General has urged Chinese citizens in Australia to be aware of fraudulent calls.