Why Expatriates Need Kidnap and Ransom Insurance

Kidnap and ransom insurance is something every expat and/or business traveler should consider, especially if you’re living in or frequent volatile (and even not-so-volatile) places.

According to the UN, kidnapping is defined as "unlawfully detaining a person or persons against their will (including through the use of force, threat, fraud or enticement) for the purpose of demanding for their liberation an illicit gain or any other material benefit, or in order to oblige someone to do or not do something."

Why Has Kidnap and Ransom Insurance Grown in Popularity?

Over the past decade, the number of kidnappings worldwide has skyrocketed. There are two main reasons for this. One is a growing socioeconomic divide which has created a vast chasm between the rich and poor. The second is the rise of radical groups such as ISIS, street gangs like MS-13, and powerful drug cartels like the Sinaloa Cartel.

However, according to the UN figures, India wins the dubious award of being the kidnapping capital of the world with an incredible 65,461 kidnappings in 2013—a figure that has almost tripled in just eight years. Mexico and Syria are also obviously high-risk countries, which may not come as a surprise, but other countries with a relatively high incidence may be more shocking—Canada, France, Germany and the UK for example. Phoenix, Arizona has been named the kidnap capital of the U.S. since 2009. (For related reading, see: Kidnap & Ransom Insurance: Who Needs It.)

The hostage profile has also changed. While kidnappers used to target wealthy locals in just a handful of countries, now tourists and business travelers alike are targeted in a much wider variety of locations. If you are an expat and/or you travel regularly, the horrifying fact is you could be a victim. Check out the State Department’s list of travel warnings to see if your next destination has a kidnap alert.

How Does Kidnap and Ransom Insurance Work?

Luckily there are sensible precautions you can take to minimize your risk of being kidnapped, such as avoiding insalubrious areas and being discreet in your dress and conduct. Unfortunately, this advice isn’t full-proof, other measures should be considered.

Expats and business travelers all over the world should consider policies including kidnap and ransom insurance. These policies not only offer reimbursement for a paid ransom, but also come with additional benefits to help you deal with the fallout of such a harrowing event. Examples include a crisis response team, expert advice from trained negotiators, medical expenses (including psychiatric or cosmetic treatment after release), loss due to injury (such as mutilation), total disability, compassionate leave after release, travel expenses and even rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of a kidnapper. (For related reading, see: A Guide to Kidnap & Ransom Insurance.)

If you don’t want to pay out-of-pocket for such a policy, speak with your company about getting protected. Most of the time they’ll understand the severity of the situation and issue a sound policy for their employees.

Yes, I know this is not a pleasant subject to contemplate, and it is sad we live in a world that makes it necessary, but unfortunately this is reality. At the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and the peace of mind that comes with being protected by kidnap and ransom insurance is priceless.

(For more from this author, see: Life Insurance Challenges for U.S. Expatriates.)