Proof of Life: Seven Lessons on How Families Can Handle Kidnapping

Kidnappings are on the rise worldwide, but there's hope for victims.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 9:26 PM

May 18, 2007 — -- Children vanishing into thin air, a familiar headline. Madeleine McCann, a British toddler, vanished from her Portugal hotel room earlier this month. In January a young boy near St. Louis was abducted in broad daylight, and was found a few days later with another young man who had been abducted four years earlier.

And daring escapes last August an Austrian girl outwits her kidnapper after eight years in captivity, and just this week a police officer abducted in Colombia crawls through the Amazon jungle to freedom, six years after he was snatched from his car.

High-profile cases of disappearances, kidnappings and daring escapes are in the news all the time, but even more abduction cases go unreported.

Many of the cases turn out to be kidnappings and while concrete statistics do not exist, it's estimated that only one out of 10 kidnappings are reported, according to Black Fox International, which provides insurance to individuals and corporations for kidnappings, ransoms and extortions.

"Kidnappings are definitely on the rise internationally," said Joe Croskey, CEO of Black Fox. According to Croskey, the number of kidnappings in Mexico has now surpassed Colombia, which had been known as the world's kidnapping capital.

"In Mexico," Croskey said, "they have what you call petty kidnapping where they grab you off the street, make you empty out your ATM, and then club you over the head."

The best place in the world to be kidnapped according to Croskey is Colombia, because kidnappers tend to not want to harm their victims, they just want money. "They treat it like a business there and they're after only one thing."

But travelers to Russia should be wary. "It's one of the worst places in the world to be taken," Croskey said. "They're brutal."

On average, some 200 foreigners are kidnapped worldwide per year, according to Black Fox. And insurance companies like Chubbs, AIG and Lloyds of London report an increase in the number of companies who are taking out kidnap and ransom insurance to protect their executives.

Abductions are a family's worst nightmare, but there is hope that in cases of kidnappings for ransom, victims return home safe and sound.

Michael Clayton, co-owner of Clayton Consulting, one of the world's largest kidnapping consultants, talked to about how a family should respond if a loved one is kidnapped. What follows are seven lessons that every family should be aware of.