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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Virtual kidnapping

Posted on 5th April 2019 at 10:51am

CRJ Key Network Partner, Markham, says that we have all heard about traditional kidnapping whereby a person gets taken (often violently) to a secure location and their loved ones are contacted so that the kidnappers can negotiate a ransom for the return of the individual. 

We all feel that this scenario would only happen to the very wealthy, but there is an up and coming trend in the kidnapping arena that can – and does – impact all walks of the population: virtual kidnapping (see CRJ 14:2).

The theft of mobile phones can lead to ransom demands from loved ones (Ammentorp/123rf)

Virtual kidnapping is when your details are taken hostage for a short time, without your knowledge and funds are extorted from your family members because they are unaware that it is just your personal details that are hostage, and not you.

Say, for example, you are at a shopping mall. You leave your bag either on a table or next to you and, unbeknown to you, your phone is removed. You are perfectly safe, but without any ability to contact anyone. The phone kidnappers contact your partner and confirm that they have your phone (and you) and if they don’t send a ransom amount straight away, then they will harm you. Your partner has no way to confirm this or contact you to make sure that you are ok and as a consequence pays the ransom amount online. Thanks to the instant world we live in, the kidnappers can immediately see if the payment has been made and therefore quickly remove all online traces of their meddling.

You then, complete your shopping and head home, ignorant of your virtual kidnaping and what has just happened. The virtual kidnappers would have simply discarded your phone, before you have had a chance to report it to the police.

One of the ways to protect oneself financially from this scenario is to have a specialist Crisis Solutions ‘Kidnap and Ransom’ insurance policy in place. A virtual kidnap extension to respond to such events, could be added to such a policy.

Contact Markham Special Risks to find out more and read Be prepared: Crisis solutions start with prevention, by Giles Greenfield, published in CRJ 14:2, for more advice on personal and staff security 

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