Cyber Kidnapping

News Excerpt:

Recently, a Chinese student who was a victim of ‘cyber kidnapping’ has been found in rural Utah, unharmed. Experts believe that with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), such crimes can rise.

What is cyber kidnapping and how does it work?

Cyber kidnapping refers to a crime where the ‘kidnappers’ convince their victim to hide, and then contact their loved ones for ransom. 

1) Through pictures

  • The victim is made to send pictures that make it look like they are being held captive — showing them bound or gagged. These are then shared with the family. Both parties believe their loved ones will be harmed if they don’t do as the kidnappers ask.
  • The ‘kidnappers’, though not physically present, monitor the victim online through video-call platforms.
  • According to the FBI’s website, although virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme—one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death. 
    • Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

2) Through Voice

  • Experts believe that with the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), such crimes can rise, as scammers can send people voice notes that sound exactly like a loved one in distress. 
  • While there is no clear data yet on how many such crimes occur each year, law enforcement experts say they are on the rise.
  • A BBC report from July 2020 mentions that eight cases of cyber kidnap had been reported in Australia that year, all targeting Chinese students.

Recommended Protection Measures:

  • According to the experts, being extra careful with calls from unknown numbers, though cyber criminals can also make it appear like they are calling from a loved one’s number. Experts also recommend checking up on your loved ones before making payments, and to approach the police.
  • Scammers can use shared data on social media to make their calls more convincing, so people need to be careful of what data to be shared, specially names, specific locations, pictures, neighbourhood, or children’s school.

Book A Free Counseling Session