Mexico City, Oct 13 (IANS/EFE) An increasing number of criminals are capitalising on the sense of fear and insecurity that exists in Mexico to extort their victims, using the internet as a tool to achieve their ends.
“People who know how to use information are gathering it and using the telephone to threaten, extort or commit some type of illegal action against that person,” said Pablo Monsalvo, a public safety expert.
One recent victim of web-based extortion was the Spanish band Delorean, whose members were “virtually” kidnapped in Mexico by criminals who threatened to kill them if their family members in Spain did not come up with an undisclosed amount of money.
“They use the different Web pages to locate (a victim’s) data, photograph, age, address, family members… or (obtain) credit card, mortgage, bank information from companies with archives of personal data”, which are “often stolen or sold,” Monsalvo said.
These crimes are very difficult to quantify because they are often not reported, he added.
“There is a growing sense of fear” in Mexico, not only about organised crime but also “ordinary crime,” said Rene Jimenez, a member of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute for Social Research.
He said there were several modalities of “virtual kidnapping”, but most commonly the criminals, after obtaining information about their victim via internet, feigned to be holding a loved one captive and demanded money for their “release”.
“The first thing you have to do is not believe it and try to locate the person and make sure he or she is alright,” Jimenez said, adding that the ordeal experienced by Delorean’s members probably would have ended if they had hung up the phone.
The musicians’ family members were sceptical, however, when they received the extortion call and filed a complaint with the police force of Spain’s Basque region that served to end the “virtual kidnapping” without a ransom being paid.
The experts said there were insufficient barriers preventing criminals from getting access to information on social networks, meaning anyone can take advantage of a person’s excessive trust, put the pieces together and then target an unsuspecting victim.