A Chinese exchange student was found freezing after tens of thousands of dollars were taken from his parents in a "cyber kidnapping" scam.
Kai Zhuang was found "frightened" and "frozen" in a tent in rural Utah, Riverdale Police said in a statement. The 17-year-old is believed to have isolated himself after being manipulated by his kidnappers, who tricked his parents into paying nearly $80,000.
Riverdale Police added in a statement that Zhuang was one of a number of foreign students recently targeted by "cyber kidnappers" in the US.
Police said Kai was seen carrying camping gear by officers in Provo, Utah, on December 20, at which time they believe he was taken into custody by the kidnappers. Kai's parents told school officials that they had been sent a ransom demand and a photo showing their son being kidnapped.
According to police, victims of cyber kidnapping are convinced to isolate themselves and even take photos to make it look like they are being held captive, even though the kidnappers are not there. Meanwhile, the victims are monitored via Facetime or Skype. Both victims and their families are convinced that the other will be harmed if they do not comply.
Following concerns, Kai was found in a tent with "no heat source" near Brigham City, about 40 kilometers north of Riverdale, as temperatures in the state risked "freezing to death overnight". He was found with limited food and water, a heating blanket and sleeping bag, as well as multiple cell phones that police suspect were used to carry out the abduction. After his rescue, Kai was checked for hypothermia and asked for a "hot cheeseburger" and to talk to his family.