Kidnapping is one of the world’s fastest growing industries as it only takes a knife, a rented room and a cell phone to enter a potentially lucrative business. Hence why in Colombia kidnapping is called ‘fishing for miracles’.
Kidnapping is rife across Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and parts of South East Asia. While the majority of foreigners who get kidnapped are diplomats, business people and engineers working with oil companies, an ordinary traveler could easily become a target. The kidnappers know that most foreigners have family back home who would willingly sell the car and home if it meant getting their son or daughter back in one piece.
Kidnapping generally only occurs to foreigners who are expats as it takes some time for the kidnappers to build up a profile and see if a big enough ransom can be raised to make it worth their while. The average backpacker won’t have to worry about being taken hostage unless planning a trek in somewhere like the jungle of Colombia, as some Israeli travelers found to their dismay a few years ago.
If living or traveling in somewhere notorious for kidnapping, however, you might want to remember the following:
- Be wary of anyone who asks too many questions regarding your income, residence, professional and family situation. Not that you should get paranoid when making smalltalk but if it sounds like a list is being made then it’s possible you’re being sized up as a hostage candidate.
- If living somewhere high-risk like Mexico City or Medellin, change your route into town on a regular basis so that your movements becomes that extra bit unpredictable and you become harder to apprehend.
- Avoid making large payments by credit card as big spenders find their way onto kidnappers’ wish lists in a hurry. I’s a cinch for them to get hold of sensitive information as informants looking for a commission are everywhere.
- If you’re passing through a country that’s experiencing civil war or is notorious for bandits, travel only by day and preferably in company.