Kidnapping in Mexico: What's the Real Risk to Travelers?

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Serious crimes of all sorts can occur in Mexico, and unfortunately bad things do happen to travelers. Secuestro exprés, or express kidnapping, is one of the risks you should be aware of.


People on the streets of Mexico Photo © Getty Images/Siqui Sanchez - Contributor

Before traveling to Mexico don't forget to check government travel advisories for noted kidnapping hotspots in case you need to avoid certain areas.

Express kidnapping in Mexico

While the majority of victims are locals, criminals are increasingly targeting more and more travelers for secuestro exprés or express kidnapping, particularly in urban areas of Mexico. News reports indicate that the increase in kidnappings in Mexico since 2005 is largely fueled by the drug trade and a surge in the number of criminal gangs. This crime is also not exclusive to Mexico, as the risk is widespread across Latin America. Authorities believe drug cartels are choosing express kidnappings as a way to get high volume, low reward income compared to long-term hostage-ransom situations.

How does it happen?

This crime occurs when a traveler hails what they think is a legitimate taxi cab. The cab is instead being driven by a local criminal who has borrowed the taxi and will take you to an ATM to force you to withdraw cash. The driver may also take your valuables; sometimes they’ll call your family and ask for a ransom payment.

Normally, these criminals let their victims go after a trip to the cash machine. These kidnappings can happen in other areas including the Metro. Another kidnapping method is of the virtual kind. Criminals call future victims saying they‘re police officials and that they have one of the person‘s family members in jail. They will ask for payment to have the person released.

If you do fall foul of a kidnapper, it’s vital that you do not resist. As much as it’s an inconvenience losing your valuables, they can be replaced, you can’t.

How to reduce the risk of being kidnapped in Mexico

To reduce your risk of being kidnapped, book a taxi over the phone or use official sitio ranks at airports. Try to use only ATMs indoors in public places like malls or inside banks during the day. Travelers have also reported incidences of being robbed by gangs after changing money at airports, so avoid exchanging money there.

  • If you are kidnapped, do what they ask of you
  • Do your best to memorise faces or number plates – these details are crucial for police when solving crimes or identifying who was behind it all
  • As soon as you are dropped off and the criminals have left, find a police station and report the crime.

If you've been the victim of a kidnapping, do you have any tips to share with our community?

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