Police in New York City have warned that virtual kidnapping is on the rise. Virtual kidnaps involve a criminal telephoning a victim and falsely claiming to have kidnapped a family member of the victim. Criminals often claim to be members of a notorious organized crime group and threaten to harm the “victim” unless the family immediately pays a ransom. Criminals hope that families will make the payment before realizing that the claim is a hoax.
New York City police said that they were receiving about 15 calls per day in March from victims of this crime. While this crime has mostly been carried out in other regions, the New York cases suggest that domestic criminals are increasingly adopting the tactic.
Virtual kidnappers increasingly use publically available information to select targets. Criminals use social media to gain information about possible targets, as well as telephone directories, with the aim of targeting as many people as possible in “fishing expeditions.”
Corporate executives, who are the most likely targets of such crimes, need to remain vigilant so that they do not become victims. Kidnap and Ransom insurance is increasingly important, and in addition to helping pay the costs following an event, most policies provide robust services that help victims and their families or businesses negotiate and resolve a crisis event.