Understanding the Intersection between Technology and Kidnapping: A Typology of Virtual Kidnapping

No longer limited by geographic locations and in-person interactions, criminals have leveraged information and communication technology to commit virtual kidnappings. In its simplest form, a virtual kidnapping is a cyber-enabled crime where criminals contact targets (falsely) claiming to have kidnapped a significant other, child, or other relative and threatening to cause death or serious bodily harm to the person unless a ransom is paid. Virtual kidnappings have also involved staged kidnappings where offenders claimed to be kidnapped to extort money from their partners, family, or friends. Overall, little is known about virtual kidnappings and the characteristics of the actors and groups that commit this cyber-enabled crime. To identify these characteristics, this article conducts an in-depth, virtual kidnapping case study analysis based on a systematic review of more than 7,000 news reports, official reports, and court documents between 2000 and 2022. The aims of the article are two-fold. First, the article identifies the intersection between technology and kidnapping to place virtual kidnapping within the broader literature on kidnapping and cybercrime. Second, the article develops a comprehensive typology of virtual kidnapping based on an in-depth analysis of 75 cases that identifies the characteristics of the actors and groups involved in this crime, including: whether this crime is committed  individually, with another actor, or as part of a group; if there are ties to transnational organized crime; the gender and nationality of actors; the size, structure, and roles of members of any identified groups; and the actors’ and groups’ tactics, tools, targets, areas of operation, and modus operandi. The research findings of this study will assist criminal justice agencies in the identification, investigation, prosecution, and adjudication of this crime.

Maras, M.-H. and Arsovska, J. (2023). Understanding the Intersection Between Technology and Kidnapping: A Typology of Virtual Kidnapping. International Criminology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43576-023-00091-4

The article can be found here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s43576-023-00091-4