How to reduce the risk of being kidnapped
If you live, work or travel in hotspots we have some invaluable tips to help keep you out of danger.
As a market leader in special risks insurance, the Hiscox Crisis Management team have dealt with hundreds of kidnappings around the world over the past 25 years. This experience has taught us more than a few lessons, and we believe that you can make yourself less vulnerable to abduction if you’re armed with the right knowledge and awareness.
We’ve dealt with a variety of different types of kidnappings. Some are over very quickly: express kidnappings, where someone is grabbed off the street, taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw money before being released.
Others are hoaxes: virtual kidnappings where a person receives a call or a text, supposedly from a family member, and is tricked into paying a ransom, only to discover later the ‘victim’ had never been taken in the first place.
But many we’ve dealt with have been classic kidnappings, in which someone is seized at gunpoint and held against their will by an organised gang who have targeted the person and studied their habits. The kidnappers’ demands are backed by a very real threat to the victim’s life unless the ransom is paid, and delicate negotiations can last days, weeks, months or even years, before a resolution is reached in which the victim is released.
Kidnapping is a very real threat in certain areas of Mexico, Central and South America as well as sub-Saharan Africa. If you live, work, or travel to kidnap-prone areas, the following tips could help you keep out of harm’s way.
Tips to stay out of trouble
First and foremost, don’t be easy game. All criminals are looking for victims they can surprise and overpower without putting themselves at too much risk. So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Keep a low profile. Driving a flashy car, wearing an expensive watch, or drawing attention to yourself in high-risk areas will just signal to criminals that you have something worth taking. Instead, it’s best to try to blend in with the crowd.
Don’t stand out online either. Increasingly, criminals scour social media for victims, so avoid posting images which show you ostentatiously living the dream. Don’t post about your travel plans, tell your followers you’ll be away from home, or share financial or personal information. Also, as ever, be cautious about any unsolicited approaches you receive online.
Quit your routine. You make yourself more vulnerable if criminals know where they can find you at any time of the day, by leaving the gym every day at 6:30 a.m. or arriving at work in the same car at the same time. So, mix up your routine: leave earlier or arrive later, change the routes you take and the places you hang out. You could protect yourself by being unpredictable.
Stay alert. Most kidnappings in high-risk areas occur when the target is on the move, so be aware of your surroundings while you’re driving. Avoid distractions, so stay off your phone while you’re in the car. Be prepared to stop or take evasive action if you sense danger. Make sure someone you trust knows where you’re going or what you’re doing, and try to travel with someone else, especially at night. There is safety in numbers.
Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. If you live or work somewhere where kidnapping is a risk, you shouldn’t think that it will never happen to you. There’s a possibility that it could, so be prepared. Don’t believe what you see in films: if you’re confronted by armed criminals, your best bet is to surrender and co-operate – resistance tends to only makes matters worse.
These tips should help you to avoid trouble and stay safe. But, if you would like to learn more about how you can prevent and manage kidnap risk, please contact Hiscox Crisis Management.
We have teams underwriting Kidnap and Ransom insurance in Guernsey, France, Germany, Spain, across the United States of America and at Lloyd’s of London.