Skip to content

Extortion/Kidnapping Checklist

Answered by: 

I am looking for a checklist for bank employees to utilize in case of an extortion or kidnapping call to go along with the robbery and bomb threat kit I already have. I have the Employee Profile Form for the personnel file but no training or procedures for them to follow in case they are the victim or the receiver of such a call.

We have two cases here:

1--Kidnappings of branch managers and head tellers, who are then forced to go to the branch in an attempt to open the vault: Employee Profile form--Kidnap/Hostage

2--Kidnapping for a ransom, which is what I am going to talk about.

If an employee among your staff is kidnapped, here are some guidelines that I pulled off the Internet from different resources, which are mentioned at the end. I used complete paragraphs out of some of these resources; this information can be used for training, too.


During the 1970s, kidnapping was used by radical groups. Targets included prominent political figures (Italy) and CEOs of the big industrial corporations (Germany).

Chances that your name will appear on the front page or in breaking news as a victim of kidnapping are slim; still, the world is witnessing an increase of terrorist and criminal activities and the list of high-risk countries and areas is becoming longer. The risk is there and it is becoming greater every day.

A recent report by Britain's Hiscox Group found that "the number of reported worldwide kidnappings for ransom rose from the 1998 peak of 1,690 to 1,789 in 1999, a rise of 6 percent, and 92 percent of those incidents took place in the top 10 riskiest countries." It also reveals that worldwide kidnappings for ransom have risen 70 percent over the last eight years. The total number of kidnappings is likely to be considerably higher, because many incidents—-particularly in developing countries—-go unreported to the authorities and are dealt with privately.

Americans make favored targets for terrorist groups all over the world. Kidnapping might happen to you, especially if you are a high-profile executive or a prominent figure within the company or the bank.

People usually tend to reject or ignore information that is upsetting or frightening, like the idea of being kidnapped or taken hostage, even though from a practical standpoint it is very feasible. This psychological phenomenon is called the “deny and repress" syndrome.

Where does kidnapping take place?

Kidnapping usually takes place in public areas; in a hotel or residence; or from your car. In virtually all cases a weapon will be used to force your cooperation and a car will be used to take you away to the final destination of your captors.

Kidnapping from your Car
One common method of kidnapping is to stop a victim's car as it is driving along a predictable route. That's why it is important to vary your route frequently.

You might be kidnapped while driving to or from work, Usually you will be under surveillance for several days before the kidnapping.

Stay alert for the following indicators that someone nearby is stalking you:

  • Illegally parked vehicles
  • Occupied parked vehicles
  • Vehicles that move with you
  • Vehicles that pass, then park
  • Erratic moves/driving
  • Vehicles slowly maneuvering through turns and intersections
  • Vehicles signaling for turns but which do not turn
  • Running through red lights
  • Flashing lights between cars
  • Pausing in traffic circles until target exits
  • Speeding up/slowing down
  • The same vehicle day after day, particularly if occupied
  • Different vehicles occupied by the same people

Check occasionally to see if another car is following you. If you think you are being followed, circle the block or change directions several times to confirm the presence of surveillance. Write down a description of the car and its occupants, if possible. It is okay to let the surveillants know you have seen them, but do not under any circumstances take any action that might provoke them or that could lead to confrontation. If they do not stop following you, drive directly to the nearest safe haven. Consider carrying a cell phone.

Learn to recognize and be alert to events that could signal the start of a plan to stop your car and take you captive. Such events include a cyclist falling in front of your car, a flagman or workman stopping your car, an unusual detour, a fake police or government checkpoint, road blocked by a disabled vehicle or accident victim, an accident in which your car is deliberately struck, cars or pedestrian traffic that box you in.

What should you do?
You won't have many options. You can sound the horn to draw attention to your car. This will, at least, help ensure there will be witnesses to observe and report what happened.

Kidnapping from a Public Place
If you are in a public area at the time of abduction, make as much noise as possible to draw attention to the situation. If the abduction takes place at your hotel room, make noise, attempt to arouse the suspicion or concern of hotel employees or of those in neighboring rooms. This way, the fact that an abduction has taken place will be brought to the attention of authorities and the process of notification and search can begin. Otherwise, it could be hours or days before your absence is reported.

In the captors' vehicle
Once you have been forced into a vehicle, you may be blindfolded, physically attacked (to cause unconsciousness), drugged, or forced to lie face down on the floor of the vehicle. In some instances, hostages have been forced into trunks or specially built compartments for transporting contraband. If drugs are administered, do not resist. Their purpose will be to sedate you and make you more manageable. It is probably better to be drugged than to be beaten unconscious. If you are conscious, follow your captors’ instructions.

Do not struggle in your confined state; calm yourself mentally, concentrate on surviving. Employ your mind by attempting to visualize the route being taken; take note of turns, street noise, smells, etc. Try to keep track of the amount of time spent between points.

In captivity
Your kidnappers will see you as a tool for forcing total response to their political and /or financial ransom demands. They may also view you as a symbol of an institution or way of life they despise. Their basic options are:

  • Kill you because their demands are not being or will not be met,
  • Keep you alive in hopes their demands may be met,
  • Negotiate with a willingness to settle for less than their full demand, or
  • Free you and abandon their demands, perhaps surrendering in the process.

Your captors will probably be arrogant with the power they hold over you. You can expect them to:

  • Barrage you with their extremist politics and views of the world,
  • Insist vehemently that you are on the "wrong" or "losing" side of whatever social or political conflict they perceive.
  • Portray you as a representative of "evil" forces to justify their kidnap-and-ransom scheme, and enforce trivial demands about your personal behavior to underscore their superiority and your inferiority.

Efforts at crude brainwashing may be employed. This could include:

  • Planting doubts in your mind about the commitment of the authorities or your company to secure your release.
  • Isolating or seeming to abandon you to heighten your fears and prevent your regaining full composure.
  • Intimidating you by flaunting knowledge of your personal life you did not know they possessed.
  • Continually drilling you on a single line of thought, and/or persistently threatening your life and well-being, either directly or by implication.

These tactics are designed to force or persuade you to make statements that will favor their pressure for ransom or their campaign for media attention for their cause.

You are likely to be kept in filthy surroundings, given poor facilities for personal hygiene, denied toilet facilities, deprived of sleep, and fed substandard or unsanitary food.

Your first priority will be to fight quietly to maintain or regain your self-control and your self-esteem. Then you will need to work on countering, or at least neutralizing, your environment and the negative and abusive behavior of your captors.

Your basic goals should be:

  • To maintain your own mental and physical health in the face of whatever conditions you have to endure.
  • To persuade your captors to provide the best facilities possible under the circumstances.

In any stressful experience, the effect on individuals and their reactions will differ greatly.

Differing types of persons will cope in their individual ways; however, there are common links which have continually appeared:

  • The individual who adopts an "accept and adapt" philosophy appears to cope more adequately than those who refuse to accept that the incident has occurred. In practice, it would seem that the victim has to accept what has happened, and may well have to exist in restricted, often poor conditions, having to make the best of it.
  • Those who retain control over their emotions, particularly in public, appear to more easily retain self-respect.
  • Coping with fear, boredom, isolation or restriction appears to be a major difficulty. Those actively taking an interest in their immediate surrounding appear better able to cope with boredom.
  • Building Human Relationships:

Try to:
Project the image of a reasonable, intelligent person who can accept adversity with dignity, rather than an aggressive, emotionally unpredictable charge who must be bound and watched every moment.

Display neither bravado (which may provoke brutality) nor cowardice (which will deepen your captors' contempt for you).

Understand that you will have to comply with your captors' orders, either willingly or under force.

Avoid pointless arguments over political or cultural concepts on which you disagree--to the extent possible, live your values instead of making them topics of conversation.

Avoid taking sides in your captors' internal quarrels and calling attention to their failures and shortcomings.

Take an honest interest in them as individuals. Getting them to talk to you may be difficult, but you may be successful in establishing communications at meal times or when you are alone with a single guard.

Show gratitude for favors and watch for opportunities to do some favors yourself.

Use the word "we" to encourage your captors to think of you as sharing mutual concerns. You do have a common interest in the outcome of this situation.

Practicing relaxation and static muscle exercise techniques assist in the dispersal and management of stress.

Be observant

  • Notice the details of the room and the sounds of activity in the building and determine the layout of the building by studying what is visible to you. Listen for sounds through walls, windows or out in the streets, and try to distinguish different smells.
  • Stay mentally active by memorizing the aforementioned details. Exercise your memory and practice retention.
  • Know your captors. Memorize their schedule, look for patterns of behavior to be used to your advantage, and identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

Manage yourself.
If you cannot take charge of things as you’re accustomed to doing when facing a problem at home or at your office, you can make some order out of your chaos, set goals for yourself, and organize your activities.

Give close attention to:

  • Personal cleanliness.
  • Clothing repair.
  • Physical exercise.
  • Relaxation and anti-tension techniques.
  • Mental activities, such as reading, writing, memory exercise, and imaginary problem solving.
  • Spiritual nourishment.
  • Your sense of humor, including your ability to laugh at yourself.

Manage Your Time. Even without a watch or locked in a windowless room, you can be alert to clues that signal the passing of time, such as changes in temperature (from the heat of day to the cold of evening) and meal patterns.

Outside sounds (birds singing, traffic noise, factory whistles, children at play or going to school).

Establish some kind of crude 30-60-day calendar, which can be extended before it runs out;

Mentally celebrate holidays, birthdays, and any other special events you can think of to break your monotony and heighten your anticipation.

Manage Your Personal Environment.
To the extent possible, treat the space in which you are confined like a home:

  • Consider personalizing it by rearranging things as much as you can.
  • Designate specific places for your various activities.
  • Keep the place clean.
  • Add to the furnishings. If possible, display photos of the family, which you may have in your wallet.
  • Ask for things you need, without appearing to demand anything, but do not expect all promises to be kept.
  • Where possible, avoid eye contact, which tends to be provoking and emotionally arousing. However, when being directly spoken to, the hostage should look at the captor, as this tends to establish rapport. Care should be exercised not to stare at or look down upon captors, as this tends to cause the captors to feel threatened.
  • Whenever possible, hostages should try to rest. This, no doubt, is more easily said than done; however, invariably, after the initial panic, both hostages and captors have a tendency to become tired and may eventually become exhausted.
  • Avoid making suggestions. Certain individuals have a need to constantly contribute to a situation. In hostage situations this may be dangerous, particularly if the situation deteriorates.
  • Watch for signs of Stockholm Syndrome, which occurs when the captive, due to the proximity and the constant pressures involved, begins to relate to and empathize with the captors. In some cases, this relationship has resulted in the hostage's becoming empathetic to the point that he/she actively participates in the activities of the group. You should attempt to establish a friendly rapport with your captors, but maintain your personal dignity and do not compromise your integrity.

Involvement in negotiation
If you were asked to participate, you should:

  • Answer questions from the law enforcement negotiator with "yes" or "no." Indicate the hostage-takers are listening in, e.g., "The environment here isn't very clean" inserted in the conversation sufficiently out of context, but naturally in order not to alert the hostage-taker.
  • If forced to lie, misrepresent or mislead the hostage-takers, state another non-truth such as "Are you taking care of my cat?" where no cat exists, etc.

At all times extreme care is needed to ensure such signals are not obvious.

Should you escape?
Military prisoners of war, as a matter of duty, are expected to attempt escape. Invariably they will have undergone some training in resistance to interrogation and escape and evasion techniques. However, the hostage situation is very different, and attempting an escape has been achieved, but it can go wrong; examples exist where hostage-takers, believing an escape attempt was being made, have brutally exerted their authority.

In certain instances where a hostage from a group of hostages has been prematurely released or achieved an escape, the hostage has experienced extreme feelings of guilt with regard to their good fortune--the survivor syndrome.

An escape attempt may well result in a worsening of the situation not only for the escapee but also for the remaining hostages by way of retaliation by the captors.

During rescue
If an attempt is made to rescue you, keep a low profile and immediately follow all instructions. Rescue will generally be attempted only after negotiations have failed. That means that lives of hostages, captors, and rescue forces are all at risk during the rescue. You don't want to be shot in the confusion while the rescue team identifies the terrorists, who may try to disguise themselves as hostages.

To protect yourself, follow these rules:

  • DO NOT RUN. Drop to the floor and remain still. If that is not possible, cross your arms on your chest, bow your head, and stand still. Make no sudden moves that a tense rescuer may interpret as hostile.
  • Wait for instructions and obey all instructions you are given.
  • Don't be upset if a rescuer isn't sure whether you are a terrorist or hostage. Even if you are handcuffed and searched, do not resist. Just wait for the confusion to clear.

    After release: Be prepared For odd psychological reactions.

    Some readjustment problems are possible after a hostage incident. Their nature and severity may depend on the duration of captivity and the treatment received at the hands of the captors.

    Terrorists often release hostages to someone in the media or notify journalists where the victim can be found.

    This can heighten the media coverage of the incident... particularly if the victim can be coaxed into making revealing commentary. It is seldom in the hostage's best interest to grant an interview at this time.

    The emotional strain of release can be almost as great as the point of capture. Unguarded comments to the press have been made which were sorely regretted on reflection. The returned victim should say nothing to the press other than expressions of delight over the release and his desire to see his family.

    Opinions about the captors and the captivity experience should be left to a later time.

    Some released kidnap victims have:

    • Been critical of themselves and of authorities for not handling things differently
    • Felt ashamed at not having attempted escape
    • Felt guilty about the ransom paid
    • Been uncomfortable in relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, and/or
    • Developed emotional and physical problems
    • Sexual adjustment difficulties
    • Insomnia
    • Loss of appetite
    • Unpredictable and eruptive temperament
    • Diminished motivation and/or a sense of detachment and alienation.

    These are natural reactions. Handled properly, they have faded with time. Executives are accustomed to being in charge, to giving orders, and to having things happen.

    Having been forced into a position of helpless subservience can shake this self-image.

    Getting back to work quickly may be preferable. One danger after a hostage experience is feeling like "damaged merchandise" or a pariah to family, organizations, and friends.

    Countering this feeling with performance as quickly as possible may keep it from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy that will permanently affect an executive's career and home life.

    Talking about the experiences helps you get over them.

    In addition, PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING IS ADVISABLE. A thorough medical exam after a hostage experience is recommended.

    Successful "re-entry" is a complex, highly individual process. It demands a cooperative approach, involving victim, family, friends, and organizations.


    • Kidnap And Ransom Survival by Alan Bell
    • Kidnapping, Hostage-Taking And Extortion On The Rise by Charles E. Boyle
    • Kidnapping And Hostage--Survival Guidelines
    • Special Report: Anti-Terrorism: Surviving A Hostile World

    First published on 7/21/03

  • First published on 07/21/2003

    Banker Store View All

    From training, policies, forms, and publications, to office products and occasional gifts, it’s available here:

    Banker Store

    hot right now

    image description

    Looking for effective, convenient training on a particular subject?

    BOL Learning Connect offers more than 200 courses ON-DEMAND or on CD ROM from AML to Reg Z and every topic in between.

    Search Topics