Kidnap and Ransom: Virtual Kidnapping

By Michael Blake, Assistant Vice President, Alliant

It is relatively common for the U.S. Department of State to issue travel advisories to U.S citizens traveling to parts of the world that have higher risks of crime.  Historically most of these crime advisories included carjacking, robbery, kidnapping and homicide.  There has been a significant uptick in a new wave of crime called virtual kidnapping.

What is “virtual kidnapping”?  Put simply, it is an extortion by deception scheme.  Perpetrators are making calls to family members and friends, alleging to have a kidnapped loved one.  The caller instructs the family member to stay on the line and make the ransom payment immediately to ensure the safety of the “victim”- the payment instructions typically include wire transfers and are for sums of money most would have readily available.  Personal details are used, such as name, address, school or work to make the kidnapping scenario sound plausible.

Virtual kidnapping has always existed, however with the help of social media outlets, publicly available information/records and the overall low cost to perpetrators, the K&R insurance sector has seen a significant spike in claims.  Kidnap and Ransom insurance does cover cases involving both virtual and actual kidnappings.  Education and awareness are the main preventive measures companies and insurers are taking to combat this surge.  It is the duty of every company to keep their employees safe.  That includes in the office and in transit.  Keeping employees, especially those frequently traveling, aware of virtual kidnapping helps thwart potential scams from happening.  Purchasing a robust Kidnap and Ransom policy also gives the policyholders access to expert assistance and advice in the event of an incident.