A scam that first targeted at least three Chinese students in Toronto has now been reported in Richmond Hill, York Regional Police say.

According to police, the victims were contacted by suspects who claimed to be Chinese police or government officials and were told that they’re under investigation for a crime they committed in China.

In each case, the victims were told to “go into hiding” and ordered to stay off their phones and social media.

The suspects then contacted the victim’s families back home and told them that their relative had been kidnapped and would not be released unless they paid a ransom.

“These types of scams may have several variations,” York Regional Police wrote in a news release on Friday. “The suspects may use a variety of lies or threats to coerce the victim into co-operating with the demands and to prevent them from contacting local police.”

The scam has been happening “worldwide,” police say, but first came to light in the GTA earlier this month after three Chinese students living in Toronto fell victim to the scam and “went into hiding.”

All three of the students were eventually found safe but no arrests have been made.

Police in York Region are urging residents – especially Chinese students – to “trust their instincts” if they receive a “suspicious” phone call.

“Do not be talked into providing personal information or payments by methods that you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with and call companies or agencies back to verify their information,” they say.

Anyone who believes they’ve been victimized by this scam or has any information regarding it is being asked to get in touch with police.