How to Handle Express Kidnapping   

Anyone whose career involves international travel should be aware of express kidnapping while taking steps to protect themselves.

Standard kidnapping is when an individual is captured, held captive, and the abductors seek ransom money from the person’s family or other acquaintances. Ransoms for these kidnappings are usually for large amounts of money.

Express kidnapping is different, but just as frightening for the person being abducted. It involves an individual being abducted and being forced by the kidnappers to pay a smaller ransom, often by being taken to an ATM machine or multiple ATM machines; or being forced to hand over an ATM card and pin number. Personal items also are usually taken during these crimes.

Business travelers are common targets for express kidnapping because they often travel alone in countries they may not be familiar with.

Where It Happens

Express kidnappings often take place in Latin American countries, with Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela reported to be high-risk spots. Other countries where express kidnappings are on the rise include Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras. Express kidnappings also are increasingly being reported in African countries, such as Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and others.

Express kidnapping is on the rise in South and Central America, and express kidnapping incidents increased by more than 60 percent in 2012 in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, compared to 2011—the most recent figures available. A total of 349 express kidnappings were reported in the city of Guayaquil between January and August 2012, and the crime became more prevalent in Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Brazil during the year.

In May 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, reported that at least seven people were the victims of express kidnappings just from May 22-28, 2015. Victims were held for a fairly short period of time, usually a few hours, and were instructed to get as much money sent to them as possible, including by contacting family and friends to have money wired to them.

Kidnappings on the Rise In 2014, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Mexico because of kidnappings, and in May 2015, that warning was updated, citing statistics by the Mexican Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), which stated that in 2013, kidnappings increased by 20 percent over the previous years. The highest numbers of kidnappings happened in the Mexican states Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán, Estado de Mexico, and Morelos.

The warning also cited a study by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), even though more than 100,000 kidnappings took place in Mexico, only 1,317 were reported to the police, who have been implicated in some incidents.

Take Precautions and Stay Calm

Travelers should always be mindful of where they are. Don’t wear expensive-looking jewelry or bring any expensive cameras with you —which indicate that you are a tourist. Avoid places where people are likely to have lots of cash on them—such as casinos and adult clubs. Avoid traveling by night and when you’re going somewhere, whether you’re walking or taking a train, bus or cab — take the most populous routes.

In most express kidnappings, the victim is not hurt because the goal for the kidnappers is to get cash and let the person go.

One of the most important things to do if you are abducted is to stay calm. The first few minutes of a kidnapping are the most dangerous and intense, and kidnappers are often armed and in a group.

Another important tip is to be observant. Take in as much detail as you can remember, and use all your senses. There’s a chance you might be blindfolded, so think about what you are smelling and touching. The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to take advantage of an opportunity to escape, but this knowledge also could be useful when reporting the crime.

Creating a rapport with your abductors might help create a bond, and make it less likely they will harm you. It’s important to be a good listener and empathetic with your abductors, so that they will be more comfortable with you.

If there is a rescue attempt, keep in mind that it will be one of the most dangerous periods of a hostage crisis. During a rescue attempt, find a place you’ll be protected, such as under a desk, lay flat and protect your head with your hands. Don’t make any sudden movements if officials enter the situation, and follow all instructions carefully.

Get Training and Be Protected

Companies should consider sending employees to training programs. Risks Incorporated offers one-day and three-day training programs in Miami and in Europe. The program promises to teach students how to avoid, and deal with, kidnappers; counter kidnapping procedures; and educate students about cultural environments and potential problems. It also simulates kidnap and ransom situations.

Another tool is an employee tracking program, which can keep you informed of employees’ whereabouts in a kidnapping incident, as well as natural disasters and political or military upheaval.

Among the coverages available from Clements Worldwide’s extortion, kidnapping, and ransom insurance is full reimbursement for ransom monies that are paid as a result of a kidnapping or extortion. It also covers the loss of any ransom monies through destruction, disappearance, confiscation or wrongful appropriation.

Other expenses the insurance covers are accidental death or dismemberment; judgments and legal liability; unlimited consultant fees; medical and psychiatric care; lost income due to loss of employee; risk prevention services, and more. With kidnap and ransom insurance, you will be well-equipped to handle an express kidnapping or any hostile situation.

Call us today at +1.202.872.0060 or 800.872.0067 or e-mail to discuss solutions tailored to your organization's insurance needs.

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