Kidnap and extortion

The threat of kidnap continues to concern UK communities, law enforcement, and commerce and industry throughout the world. This is despite the fact that the UK is acknowledged by the United Nations as a world leader in reducing the impact caused by kidnap and blackmail offences. High profile kidnaps abroad impact at international, community and regional level.

Different types of kidnap


It’s likely that many kidnaps go unreported, as often the hostage and the person subject to the kidnappers’ demands are themselves criminals and have no wish to involve the law. These “vendetta kidnaps” generally revolve around debt disputes, for example linked to drug deals.

'Tiger kidnaps' involve the holding of a hostage, usually a close relative of the victim, to force the victim to assist a robbery.



Kidnappings abroad


Overseas, UK nationals are at greater risk of kidnap in areas of recent conflict or instability. Where UK nationals or their relatives are taken hostage overseas demands can be made to family members, including those in the UK.



Extortion / blackmail


Blackmail covers a multitude of criminal activities, including product contamination, and uses threats to get money, although other demands may also be made. As with kidnaps, the true extent of blackmail and extortion offences (including “protection rackets”) by organised criminals is not known. Fear, and damage to reputation in the case of retail businesses, may make victims unwilling to report instances.

Sextortion (webcam blackmail)

Sextortion, or webcam blackmail is a growing threat. Criminals might befriend victims online by using a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam, often by using an attractive woman to entice the victim to participate. These women may have been coerced into these actions using financial incentives or threats.

These webcam videos are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share the images with the victims’ friends and family. This can make the victims feel extremely ashamed and embarrassed and, tragically, here in the UK at least four young men have taken their own lives after being targeted in this way.

Find out more about sextortion, including how to protect yourself and what to do if you've been a victim.

Combating kidnap and extortion

Our Anti Kidnap and Extortion Unit (AKEU) is a small specialist unit that provides a 24/7 response to UK, European and worldwide law enforcement officers plus government departments dealing with reported offences of kidnap,blackmail and extortion.

The unit's on-call officers provide strategic and tactical advice to senior investigators and lead officers, as well as potential access to NCA assets.

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