Guile & Deception as Kidnapping Tools

Lome, Togo

Lome, Togo

 

Most people when they think of a kidnapping think of a violent, dramatic event. The victim is ambushed, dragged from his car, threatened with weapons and restrained before being moved to a location where he is isolated. Many kidnappings do follow this model or something very similar. Speed, violence, “shock and awe” are effective tools for the kidnappers – allowing them to gain control of the victim quickly and effectively, dramatically reducing the likelihood of resistance of escape.
There are however kidnappings that don’t follow this model. Circumstances where victims are lured into their captivity induced to put themselves in a vulnerable position and sometimes even controlled through duplicity as much as physical restraint. It’s important to understand and recognize this methodology to be able to protect yourself against it.
A number of these events evolve out of sophisticated scams. The victim is lured to a specified location with the promise of a lucrative business opportunity and then abducted. Many but certainly not all of these incidents have occurred have occurred in West and Central Africa. In March 2014 KR Magazine (www.krmagazine.com) outlined the case of an Australian businessman who was lured to Togo in West Africa, in December 2012 by an opportunity to purchase gold bars. He entered Togo by land from neighboring Ghana, did not get an entry stamp in his passport and was told by his “hosts” that he faced immigration and money laundering charges. He was then held captive “for his own protection” and forced to call his business partner and estranged wife for ransom payments. This incident was also controversial in the sense that after the victim purportedly escaped or was allowed to escape there were allegations that the entire incident was a fraud. Regardless – the case provides numerous examples of a modus operandi that has apparently become increasingly common. There was also a notable case in May 2012 off a US commercial airline pilot who was also lured to Lome, Togo by an opportunity to buy gold bars. The pilot was subsequently held captive in a village in neighboring Benin until a ransom was paid. Similar cases have been reported in Uganda, South Africa and numerous other countries.
The Colombian Facebook Gang – which we have previously discussed (http://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/social-networks-and-the-threat-to-personal-security/) used social media to identify and target wealthy men. Using fake profiles depicting beautiful women the kidnappers enticed the men to “meet in person”. The victims were then abducted when they arrived for the meeting.
Even the well-publicized and tragic case of journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan contains elements of the use of deception to lure the victim into captivity. Pearl went to what he believed was an interview with a Pakistani militant – Sheikh Gilani in Karachi. After being taken willingly to the safe house where the interview was to occur, Pearl surrendered all his personal items and allowed himself to be restrained “for security reasons”.
Kidnapping through the use of deception and guile, rather than a gun offers a lot of advantages to the criminal:
• They can get the victim to do the work for them by getting them to isolate themselves and in some cases willingly put themselves into captivity.
• It gives them deniability. If it goes bad and they are caught they can argue it was all a misunderstanding on the part of the victim. If no violence was used and the victim was not physically restrained they may very well prevail with this argument.
• It reduces the physical risk to they face. The victim is unlikely to fight back or physically resist and they are less likely to draw the attention of law enforcement.
• It creates an opaque environment they can manipulate to their advantage. Is the victim free to go? Does the victim know that?

 

Common Elements and Mitigation:
There are some common elements that occur in cases where guile and deception are used and ways to mitigate your risk:

• Many of these situations have the hallmarks of a scam. If it seems to go to be true then it probably is. That said it is worth noting that many of the perpetrators of these crimes can be very sophisticated and can work on developing the mark or victim over time – this is true for both kidnappings and straight out scams. It’s important to do your due diligence in these situations and know who you are dealing with as well as watching for some of the other indicators below.
• Many have an illegal or at least unethical component where the victim knows he or she is getting involved in something that is not legitimate. This allows the perpetrators to require a level of secrecy that would not be typical in most business dealings. It also provides the kidnapper with the leverage of reporting the victim to the authorities. You can mitigate this by not engaging in business deals or other activities that are questionable.
• Be wary of unsolicited approaches from people you don’t know or unsolicited calls or emails requesting a meeting or offering a prospective business opportunity.
• There may be a requirement to go to an isolated location or to accompany the perpetrators to an unknown location. Additionally there may be a change in plans or meeting places at the last minute that isolates the victim. To avoid this it’s important to insist on holding meetings in public locations – preferably that you are either familiar with or have time to assess in advance. You should not agree to last minute changes in meeting venues and if pressed its best to cancel the meeting. Criminals will try to create a sense of urgency to get you to go along with their plan.
• The perpetrators may say certain measures are “for your own protection” or are “security measures” to control you. Do not allow yourself to be willingly confined or restrained under these circumstances.
• There may be an attempt to isolate you and make you dependent. This may include surrendering your passport, mobile phone, etc. We strongly advise travelers – particularly in the developing world – to create multiple layers of contacts or parallel contacts. Do not allow one person or one group of people to control your agenda and activities. Have alternate means of transport, communication, etc. to eliminate this dependency. Also have check in procedures and let others know where you are going and who you will be meeting. We have discussed this in our article on dealing with local contacts (http://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/?s=dealing+with+local+contacts ) and in the book Safe Travel Abroad (http://www.amazon.com/Safe-Travel-Abroad-Individual-Expatriates/dp/1484871987/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1402518982&sr=8-1).
Being aware of this type of crime is the best way to reduce your risk of being a victim. Recognizing the criminal modus operandi and identifying the signs will allow you to avoid these situations in most cases.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention Now Available in Paperback

Kidnapping_Avoidance_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention from Integrated Protective Concepts is now available in paperback format from Amazon.com.  The book was previously released in E-Book format for Kindle and compatible readers.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention is a 70-page book that covers proactive measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling victim to a kidnapping.  Here is a little bit about the content:

A confused tourist gets into the wrong taxi and is expressed kidnapped. A businessman is lured to a bogus meeting and held for ransom. An expatriate consultant is kidnapped after being stopped at an impromptu roadblock. A journalist goes for an interview that turns horribly wrong. A bank manager’s family is held hostage to force him to access bank funds. Kidnapping is a pervasive crime that takes many forms around the world. Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention will help you understand the different types of kidnappings, how they occur and how to identify ways you can better protect yourself, your family and your personnel. In this book you will learn:

• About different types of kidnappings

• How kidnappers select their victims and the process and methods they use • How to assess your vulnerability

• How to recognize potential ruses and traps

• How to limit information about yourself and your movements

• How to recognize surveillance and other pre-incident activity

• How to use OPSEC principles to protect yourself

 • How to use force multipliers to mitigate risk

• Where to find additional resources

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention doesn’t discuss hostage survival or how to handle a kidnapping event; rather it concentrates on proactive measures that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a kidnapping.

Both paperback and Kindle versions are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Kidnapping-Avoidance-Prevention-Integrated-Protective/dp/1494762943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389880826&sr=1-1&keywords=kidnapping+avoidance

Both versions are also available on many international Amazon sites such as France, UK and Spain.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention

Kidnapping_Avoidance_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Protective Concepts is pleased to announce the release of  the new book Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention.  Originally planned for first or second quarter 2013 it got a bit delayed but is now available as a Kindle E-book.  A paperback version of the book is in production and should be available in January 2014.  Please see a brief description below:

A confused tourist gets into the wrong taxi and is expressed kidnapped. A businessman is lured to a bogus meeting and held for ransom. An expatriate consultant is kidnapped after being stopped at an impromptu roadblock. A journalist goes for an interview that turns horribly wrong. A bank manager’s family is held hostage to force him to access bank funds.Kidnapping is a pervasive crime that takes many forms around the world. Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention will help you understand the different types of kidnappings, how they occur and how to identify ways you can better protect yourself, your family and your personnel.

In this book you will learn:

• About different types of kidnappings
• How kidnappers select their victims and the process and methods they use
• How to assess your vulnerability
• How to recognize potential ruses and traps
• How to limit information about yourself and your movements
• How to recognize surveillance and other pre-incident activity
• How to use OPSEC principles to protect yourself
• How to use force multipliers to mitigate risk
• Where to find additional resources

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention doesn’t discuss hostage survival or how to handle a kidnapping event; rather it concentrates on proactive measures that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a kidnapping.

Some additional administrative notes:  The Kindle E-Book version sells for $4.99 USD.   The paperback version when it becomes available will sell for around $14.00 USD.  The original formatting was done for the paperback version so there may be some awkward sections in the E-Book version depending on the particular reader you are using.  Regardless any version should be completely readable.
Questions and comments are welcome and should be emailed to integratedprotectiveconcepts@gmail.com.

Logic of Violence: A Review

LogicofViolence

One of the key elements of personal security is to understand the threat and the adversary’s method of operation, mindset and tactics.  Rory Miller, the author of the excellent books  Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence has released an outstanding video called Logic of Violence that delves into the mindset of the criminal, how they reason, select victims and plan attacks.  Miller, a career corrections officer has great insight into how criminals think, how violence unfolds and explains how to use this information to keep yourself safe.

The three-hour video has an interesting format:  You are present for a seminar that Miller gives to four self-defense instructors.  Miller stands in front of a white board for most of the video presenting his material and engaging in a discussion with the four attendees.  There are also several brief breakouts where Miller and the four instructors go to a bar and a parking lot to walk through some of the concepts they have discussed.  Miller also discusses several techniques such as using reflective surfaces to maintain situational awareness and breaking free from a grab from behind but the video is overwhelmingly focused on concepts and understanding how criminals think, select their victims and plan their attacks.

Viewers that have read Miller’s books will see a discussion of familiar themes such as social vs. predatory violence, resource vs. process predators and so forth.  Miller spends a lot of time getting the four attendees to actively engage in exercises that force them to think like a criminal.  I strongly suggest viewing the video with a notebook and pen on hand to get the greatest value from the material by participating in the exercises and jotting down key points.

While the video is clearly geared towards instructors its really great material for anyone concerned about personal security.  My only criticism at all – and its very minor – is that some of the questions can be difficult to hear.  A couple of times I had to stop and review the video to hear what the question was.  This could easily be addressed in future videos if Miller restated the question for the “video audience” before answering.  There is also some bonus material which includes a very interesting brief presentation by one of the seminar attendees Teja Van Wicklen of Devi Protective Offense that addresses some of the particular security concerns of women and some of their vulnerability to psychological domination by predators.

Logic of Violence is highly recommended to those who seek to better understand how criminals think and operate.  Its available on Amazon.com and through YMAA (www.ymaa.com ).

When Cultural Faux Pas and Inadvertent Rule-Breaking Lead to Detention

Photog

US citizen Shezanne Cassim and four other men are currently being detained in United Arab Emirates for making a satirical film about a fictional martial arts school in Satwa neighborhood of Dubai.  The 20-minute film, which follows the format of shows like Fight Quest and Human Weapon begins with the film makers visiting the fictional “Satwa Combat School” and meeting the instructor Saloom Snake to learn about his system.  A link to the New York Times article and the You Tube video is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/middleeast/united-arab-emirates-satirical-video.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fworld%2Fmiddleeast%2Findex.jsonp

Dubai authorities clearly didn’t think the film was funny and Cassim and his cohorts are facing charges of threatening national security and endangering public order.  While this may seem strange to many western observers, this incident really illustrates the risk of not knowing or unintentionally violating local rules.  This problem is particularly acute in locations where there may be mixed messages.  There is the Dubai that is known for its incredible shopping malls, indoor skiing, the Palm Jumeirah and its upscale nightclubs and bars.  Many visitors and expatriates have no issue in Dubai and most don’t even feel like they are in the Middle East.  This can create a dangerous complacency.  While the UAE is in no way as conservative as Saudi Arabia, there are conservative elements there and laws that may have been unwittingly violated can be enforced strictly.

This is true in many locations around the world.  Local laws and cultural mores may be very different from what western travelers and expatriates are accustomed to in their home countries of even in foreign countries that are more like their own.  Many of us have grown up in societies where questioning authority was completely permissible and often the norm.  This is not the case in many countries.  Insulting the king is a criminal offense in Morocco and Thailand for example.

Additionally actions you take and things you possess may also result in detention by local authorities.  Travelers in the developing world and in security-conscious countries need to be very careful about what they photograph.  One classic example is taking pictures at the airport, which will get you arrested in some countries or at least get the camera confiscated.  The same is true for photographing other critical infrastructure like ports, bridges, etc. as well government buildings, police & military personnel and political activity.  Carry a satellite phone is prohibited in some countries, requires special licensing in others and will draw unwanted attention in others.  This is not to say you should never carry one but check local laws and weigh the need before traveling.  We have two other articles that further address this issue:  Blending in and the Gray Man (http://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/?s=gray+man) and Sanitize Yourself for Travel (http://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/sanitize-yourself-for-travel).

Other activities like promoted your religious beliefs or taking part in local political activities such as demonstrations and protests can get you arrested and detained.  Sometimes the enforcement come at the hands of local citizens and not the authorities, especially if the activity is not technically illegal.

Probability: Looking at Likelihood When Assessing Personal Risk

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There is a tendency to be drawn to the more exotic, spectacular or exciting threats when considering personal risk rather than the more likely but more mundane threats.  In many parts of the developing world your greatest risk is a vehicle accident.  Poorly maintained vehicles, lack or total absence of professional driver training and licensing, bad roads and sometimes a lackadaisical attitude towards safety in general make this a real concern many places.  This is often compounded in places where modern medical care is severely lacking and all but the most minor medical issues require evacuation.  In an environment like this injuries sustained in a traffic accident that might be very manageable elsewhere in the world can be fatal.

While conducting a recent threat assessment in East Africa following the Westgate Mall attack, it was difficult to get the consumers of the report to appreciate the full spectrum of threat that exists apart from terrorism.  Yes, terrorism is a very real concern and the relative success of the Westgate attack (a low tech attack using limited numbers that produced high casualties and went on for days capturing worldwide media attention) may encourage further, similar actions.  Any further attacks will likely occur at soft targets where visitors and expatriates are likely to be such as hotels, transit hubs, shopping venues and so forth.  That said, Nairobi is a city racked by violent crime and for the average visitor or resident this is a much greater risk than terrorism.  There is a much greater chance of being carjacked, and possibly murdered in the process than there is of being present during a terrorist attack.

When assessing your personal risk in a particular location and perhaps basing whether or not you will go or what mitigation measures you will put in place, it’s important to consider the full threat spectrum and consider the likelihood or probability of each type of threat so that you don’t get so caught up with the more spectacular threat that is receiving massive coverage on CNN that you ignore the more probable threats that might be right in front of you.

Situational Awareness & Technology

21255909-running-woman-jogging-on-beach-listening-to-music-in-earphones-from-smart-phone-mp3-player-smartphon

We have often discussed the importance of situational awareness and its role in keeping yourself safe.  This pertains not only to personal security but to general personal safety as well.  The massive use of different handled devices has had a demonstrative effect on the situational awareness of most of the public.

The other day while running on relatively remote trail I passed a young lady walking with ear buds in her ears listening to music.  She seemed to be totally oblivious to what was going on around her and didn’t notice me until I was within a few feet of her.   This encounter is a good example of the degree of vulnerability that many people put themselves in on a daily basis.   At the risk of sounding like a male chauvinist this vulnerability is particularly acute for females who for several reasons may be a more attractive target than a male.

While this phenomenon is not new – and my example of the girl with the ear buds could be equated to people zoning out with Walkmans in the ‘80s – it’s definitely intensified with the proliferation and popularity of a variety of devices.    Personal computer sales are down and hand held device sales are up.  New technology has brought us great advantages, from increased productivity to increased mobility and in some respects increased freedom.  Not only are we no longer tied to a desk but there are also benefits for personal security in the form of increased communication ability, GPS and others.

However these devices have a way of commanding our attention that can be unhealthy.   One only has to look at the tragic accidents that have occurred when drivers who were focused on texting rather than the road collided with another vehicle or a pedestrian.  This same concern applies to personal security.

Most criminals give off some indicators before they act.  Sometimes it may be more subtle than others but there is almost always some kind of target assessment that occurs and usually a final check – often a glance over the shoulder or a “9-3-6” head movement to check for potential interference and maybe for escape routes before the attack.  These actions are detectable, especially if you know what to look for and….if you are looking.

Respected combatives instructor Kelly McCann describes the issue of a victim not noticing the attacker prior to the attack in the following quote:

“Criminals physically occupy space before they attack.  They have to see their victims so they’re usually in the victim’s line of sight.  They’re just not noticed by their victims who are preoccupied, disinterested or disinclined to believe any violent crime could possibly happen to them”

That sums it up pretty well.  You can only notice these signs if you are paying attention to your environment. You can only pay attention to your environment if you are not distracted by something else.  While we should never be in Condition White in public we need to be particularly attentive at certain times as we have discussed before:  Chokepoints, arrivals, departures and identified high risk areas.  These are times when the devices should be put away and we should focus on the world around us.  Even when we are not at these critical points we should attempt to use our devices in a light Condition Yellow if we are in public.  Don’t get totally absorbed in what you are doing.  Lift your head regularly and look around, keep some level of awareness about your environment.

Back to the original example of the girl with the ear buds.  Hearing is one of our senses that we use for survival and we should think carefully before effectively shutting it off with earphones and depriving ourselves of that sense.  They are times when it is safe to do this, maybe working out in a gym or running on a track during a busy time when other people are using it or sitting in an airport waiting for your next flight.  Should you use earphones running on that same track by yourself at night?  Walking down a city street?  I wouldn’t do it.  Good situational awareness will keep you out of many if not most problems so be careful not to handicap yourself and use technology smartly.

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