Cyber kidnappings on the rise, expert warns after teen’s Riverdale incident.

January 2, 2024
1 min read

A cyber security expert has warned about the increasing prevalence of cyber kidnappings, following a case in which a young foreign exchange student’s family sent $80,000 to cyber criminals. Brandon Amacher, an instructor at Utah Valley University, highlighted the accessibility of such crimes and the realistic nature of the threats made. He stressed the importance of multiple communication channels and verifying identities to prevent falling victim to cyber kidnappings.

In the latest developments of the Riverdale case, a cyber security expert shed light on the tactics employed by criminals targeting victims and their families. Brandon Amacher, a national security studies instructor at Utah Valley University, expressed concern about the increasing accessibility of such cyber crimes. In the Riverdale case, a young foreign exchange student’s family sent $80,000 in response to cyber threats alleging the young student was being held hostage.

Amacher emphasized the unfortunate reality of these incidents occurring globally and becoming more accessible due to the advancement of technology. The police, investigating the case involving the Chinese family, found the young student after his family reported him missing. Authorities discovered the manipulation the cyber criminals used on both the boy and his family through the tactic of cyber kidnapping. Amacher explained how perpetrators manipulate victims, particularly those unfamiliar with their surroundings, collecting information through online sources. Police found the boy self-isolated, in a tent during winter months, and fearful for his family’s safety.

Due to technological advancements, Amacher said these types of threats can appear highly realistic, making it crucial to have multiple communication channels. He suggested beyond a phone number, other channels could include a verified messaging service, trusted individual, and involving local law enforcement or U.S. consulates when dealing with international cases. He also highlighted the importance of verifying identities. Additionally, he suggested red flags, such as compressed timetables and reluctance to allow direct communication, indicating potential hoaxes.

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