5 Ways to Avoid Being Kidnapped and Held for Ransom
By Peter Schulteis
Posted: February 26, 2015
Kidnap, ransom, and extortion are on the rise worldwide, especially for business travelers, non-profit workers, faith-based organizations, government contractors, and anyone perceived to have wealth, political influence or ties to certain western organizations or groups. Staying safe is becoming harder, but here are five ways to avoid being kidnapped and held for ransom.
1. Self- Awareness
Most kidnap and ransom situations can be avoided with a little self-awareness. Being aware of who you are, where you’re going, and how others might perceive you when you get to your destination can make a big difference. Do not standout by wearing clothes and jewelry that are culturally inappropriate and draw attention to you. Observe others and blend in as much as possible. Even when provoked, avoid offensive gestures or threatening comments towards strangers. Constantly reevaluate your surroundings and the people around you. Don’t wear headphones or be consumed with your cell phone unless you’re in a familiar place or a secure area.
2. Be familiar with your surroundings
Whether traveling abroad on business or pleasure, we tend to oversimplify personal security issues and responsibilities. We have our plane flight, hotel reservations, and travel itinerary, but we don’t give much thought to anything else. Being familiar with your surroundings is critical to your personal security and wellbeing. You should know exactly who is picking you up at the airport and don’t be afraid to ask for formal identification from that person. Identify buildings, police stations, large public areas, and points of interest that are near the place that you’re staying or working. Identify more than one route back to your hotel or business destination. Identify and use ATM’s that are in busy locations and don’t use ATM’s at night. Be familiar with local customs, gestures, and business practices. Don’t rely on GPS and always have a map that is easily accessible. Avoid night clubs or being out late at night.
Don’t show your itinerary to anyone that doesn’t need to know. If you are renting a car, always check in and around the car before you enter the vehicle. Always keep your gas tank half full. Avoid illegal taxis and only use taxis or chauffeurs that have been vetted by your company or organization. Avoid taxis with a passenger already in the front seat and don’t share rides with strangers. Avoid traveling alone if possible. Avoid spontaneous or unscheduled trips to unfamiliar locations. Avoid travel to rural areas. Lock your car or taxi door and keep the windows up all the time. Let others know where you’re going.
4. Change your routine
Innocently, people are not very good about evaluating potential risk. In order to mitigate personal security issues and potential kidnap situations, you should consider changing your routine throughout your trip. If possible, identify and use different routes to your hotel or place of work. If you drive a rental car, consider jumping in a cab or walking to the destination if it’s not too far away. Don’t work-out, eat, drive, or go to work at the same time every day.
5. Don’t be a victim
The way you present yourself to the outside world actually matters. Don’t be a soft target for a robbery or people that would bring harm to you. Walk and talk with confidence, but don’t draw attention to yourself. Carry your purse or briefcase across your chest and under your shoulder and arm in high traffic areas. Don’t wear high heels or sandals if possible. Be polite but assertive to strangers. Avoid ATMs if possible. Carry very little cash with you and be aware of people around you when you complete a financial transaction at a store or restaurant. Don’t accept drinks, gum, cigars, cigarettes, or food from people that you are not familiar with.
Traveling overseas can be stressful. By following these simple tips your trip can be safe and fun.