This happened in my town this last week. I was going to put it in the “News that makes you say WTF” but I thought it might be worth a thread of its own. This is so bizarre.
An exchange student from China was reported kidnapped by his parents who are in China. When the police checked with his host parents it appeared he was missing but they were not aware. His parents received pictures of him that seemed to show he had been kidnapped. But he had purchased camping equipment and was found camping in the mountains above a town 30 miles north of here. He was being manipulated by people online and through a phone. Very weird. Here is one of the articles.
you might not have read many stories about people being manipulated with cyber threats. i’ve read many (usually around cyber bullying and sextortion) and the victims do in fact believe that if they don’t follow the instructions then really bad stuff will befall them or loved ones. none of it is rational thinking.
Might consider just how tightly controlled a Chinese national might be from their own government (no matter where the individual is currently located) and the impact of “disobeying” to families that are still living in China. I do not believe that there is any “gullibility” in this situation so much as fear for that impact to family back in China.