Cyber kidnapping popped up on my feed from numerous sources this morning. Because it instantly caught my eye as a new oxymoron, like fiery ice or wise fool, I took the clickbait and started to read. Cyber relates to computers, information technology, and being online. Kidnapping is a physical crime of abducting a person. How do they relate? The concept was intriguing, and I needed to know more.
According to Bing, the FBI has warned about virtual kidnappings for decades, but there is no mention of cyber kidnapping on FBI.gov as of today. With virtual kidnapping, there are threats, but there is no physical kidnapping. It is a deepfake telemarketing scheme. Here is the FBI’s definition of virtual kidnapping:
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) defines virtual kidnapping as an extortion scheme 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 kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.Bing
On the other hand, cyber kidnapping lures the target into remote, isolated areas by threatening their family if they refuse to cooperate. Although the target isn’t physically held captive in the presence of the perpetrators, he is being monitored 24/7 with multiple cell phones in the target’s possession and being told harm will come to his family if he tries to escape. Simultaneously, the criminals demand large sums of money from the victim’s family.
One such unfortunate Chinese exchange student in Utah was detained in a tent in the mountains recently, and numerous news outlets covered the crime. Here is a link to one of the articles if your curiosity compels you to know more. Teen Found Alive After “Cyber-Kidnapping” Incident – Infosecurity Magazine (infosecurity-magazine.com)
Criminals are constantly developing evil schemes or reinventing old ones, especially when there are potentially high rewards, as often with extortion. Cyber kidnapping just happens to be their latest diabolical innovation.