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High net worth individual risks



High-Net-Worth Individuals Are Increasingly at Risk of Kidnapping and Ransom

It may seem like the plot of a bad Hollywood action movie, but we can assure you it’s all too real. Wealthy South Africans and those close to them are becoming targets for criminals looking to make a quick buck – and if it’s not something you think could happen to you, it’s time to think again.

The rising number of local millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires is providing a rich pool of potential targets for criminals, heightened by how freely the well-to-do travel the world for business and pleasure. With advancements in technology, it’s now easier than ever for nefarious individuals to know your movements, your personal details, and also those of your spouse and children. Social media and even a simple Google search can reveal reams of information that, in the wrong hands, can be used to target you for ransom, kidnapping, or worse.

The truth is, you are constantly at risk.

Take the most recent example of Mohammed Dewji, Africa’s youngest billionaire, who was kidnapped by gunmen from his hotel in Dar es Salaam. In a brazen assault, the abductors drove into the hotel and opened fire before bundling Dewji into a car and driving off. Dewji has since been freed, but at this stage it is still unclear whether a ransom was paid. Regardless, this must surely have been a highly traumatic situation for his wife and young children. Often the financial cost can be high, but the emotional impact could be even worse.

It’s worth remembering the tragic story of J. Paul Getty, the oil heir, who was released after paying a $2.8 million ransom to kidnappers in 1973 – but not after they cut off his ear to serve as proof that they had him. Getty died in February of this year at the age of 54 after battling a debilitating drug addiction which many believe was related to the trauma he experienced. It’s too late to say whether he could have done more to avoid the situation, but we can learn from it, and let it serve as a reminder to always stay vigilant.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

When dealing with determined criminals, it’s often difficult to stay one step ahead. How do you know your security is up to scratch? How do you know your Personal Assistant hasn’t been compromised? Is your local school run an ideal route for a would-be ambusher? Is access to your home relatively easy? You have enough to worry about as it is, without the extra stress of keeping track of all possible security loopholes.

It’s at times like these that you need a broker with access to a very particular set of skills and services.

Any broker worth their salt will work with you to conduct a thorough security and safety audit of yourself and your family, with a strong focus on personal cyber security. This will determine where your highest risk areas are, and where you are most valuable to a criminal. They will not only advise you on what insurance solutions are available to mitigate the risk, but will work with you to determine what risk solutions are best for your individual needs.

“People need a broker who is there to provide tailored advice and service when it is needed, with as little stress as possible,” says Joe Szemerei, Executive Director, Individual and Volume Business, Indwe Risk Services. “It’s the advice you get that makes the difference to your experience, your preparedness, and your cover. It’s the level of knowledge and expertise you receive that will give you peace of mind.”

It’s never too early, or too late, to put you and your family’s safety and security first.

The first step to tackling this problem is admitting that the threat exists, and that the more money they think you have, the more of a target you become. The second step is to get in touch with a broker with strong security credentials and take a long and hard look at what can be done to increase the safety of you and the ones you love. Such a partner can prove to be vital in helping you to assess your security weaknesses, advise you on what preventative steps to take, and relieve you of the stresses associated with protecting what’s most important to you. The last resort is looking at specialist insurance products and services when the security measures fail.

Until the bad guys are no more, the hero walks off into the sunset and the end credits roll, this very real story will continue to play out. The best you can do is to look it squarely in the eyes, stand your ground, and make it as difficult as possible for this sort of crime to happen.