Cybercrime has prospered because it’s often easier to perpetrate than physical crime, and the tools and information behind such crimes have become easy to obtain. An offshoot of cybercrime is known as “virtual kidnap,” and, as with more run-of-the-mill forms of cybercrime, companies are now being affected, in addition to individual households.
Virtual kidnap occurs when criminals use information about a person’s absence to claim they have been kidnapped, and then turn around to extort money from other family members. Denise Balan, crisis management head for the Americas for insurance company XL Catlin, provides a real example of such a scheme in an article on her company’s website. An executive from a Fortune 500 company traveled to Mexico City and, upon checking into his hotel, received a call saying his family back in the U.S. would be harmed unless he followed instructions to move to another hotel and turn off his cellphone. The executive’s wife then received a call saying her husband was kidnapped, and a demand for a $600 wire transfer to secure his release. It turned out the virtual kidnappers were in no position to carry out an actual abduction, as they were themselves in prison. Ms. Balan provides a list of indications of a virtual kidnapping attempt and pointers on how to respond.
The incidence of virtual kidnapping is on the rise, according to the Threat Forecast 2017 report from risk management firm red24. “Virtual kidnappings, synonymous with Latin America, may increase in geographical scope and scale in Europe in 2017,” it said, while also noting a rise in reports of the crime in the U.S. The report also contains a cautionary note for executives who publicize their movements via social media. “There is potential for an evolution in tactics in 2017, which may include an increasing cybercrime element, with pre-incident surveillance of potential victims via social networking platforms,” it says.
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- Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
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- Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note 7 smartphones are displayed at the company’s service center in Seoul.
- Associated Press
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