Nightly News   |  April 19, 2014

Students Studying Abroad Prime Target for Spies

Some nations are recruiting American students studying abroad for espionage.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> we're back with the intriguing new way the fbi is combatting espionage across seas. this includes students being recruited as spies. more on the stuff movies are made of.

>> reporter: it's the fbi 's latest tool in the effort to crack down on spying. not a hollywood thriller featuring jason born.

>> and to win the game, you must often sacrifice.

>> reporter: but a highly produce half-hour video released this week reenacting the video of a former college from michigan. he was sentenced to four years in federal prison for trying to give information to chinese officials while studying abroad .

>> i wrote a number of papers and each time amachiymamanda paid me in cash.

>> reporter: the real life person offers this caution.

>> don't fool yourself. the recruitment is active and the target is young people , throw out money at them, see what happens.

>> reporter: more than 280,000 american students study abroad each year. the fbi warns they are tempting for spy agencies. the chinese government targets dozens of american students each year, slowly luring them in with cash and gifts.

>> eventually they got you over a bell because you've been strung along little by little . at that point, they have much more severe demands on you.

>> reporter: the hook is in.

>> the hook is in.

>> reporter: why college students? today's college student is tomorrow's government official . foreign spy agencies hope their investment will pay off years down the road.

>> our economies are intertwined. all we seek is information to improve relations between us .

>> reporter: the burro won't say how much the video cost to produce, but one former intelligence official insists it's far cheaper than the consequences of that one naive student that takes the bait. peter alexander nbc news washington.