Criminal Justice

Kidnappings for Ransom, Both Real and Fake, Are Increasing

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In a spillover of the criminal violence that is an increasing problem in Mexico, kidnappings for ransom—both real and “virtual”—are on the rise in Arizona.

Often targeting immigrant families, those who pretend to be holding a beloved relative captive when in fact they are not apparently are purchasing names of those entering this country illegally from the smugglers who transport them, reports the Associated Press. Then, when illegal immigrants actually are in transit and can’t be reached by their U.S. relatives, the “kidnappers” call family members here, demanding money and threatening to injure the virtual victim if it isn’t forthcoming.

An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona says the agency is now receiving an average of one complaint a week about such faked kidnapping cases. Real kidnappings are also a problem: “Since the beginning of 2007, Phoenix has had more than 560 kidnappings in which drug and immigrant traffickers, and their families, have been abducted by fellow criminals and held for ransom,” the AP writes.

To determine whether a kidnapping is the real thing, or simply a vicious extortion scam, relatives should make every effort to speak with the victim by telephone, which actual kidnappers often allow, according to authorities.

Related coverage: “Kidnappings for Ransom in Mexico—and the US—Are Up Significantly” “At Funeral of Assassinated Mexican Cop, Fellow Officers Seem Cheery”

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