Kidnappings most commonly occur in places that fit one or both of two categories: an area that you spend a lot of predictable time in or a situation where you’re abnormally vulnerable.
Always implement the TEDD system to practice countersurveillance and keep yourself safe from would-be kidnappers.
Time – If you see a person over time, be wary. Once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a stalker. Vary your times, what time you leave, arrive, and daily habits.
Environment – If you see the same person in different environments, proceed with caution. Vary your environments, meaning periodically change where you get gas, coffee whatever so that you force a correlation of movement or action by a potential surveillant.
Distance – Noting distance is important for a few reasons. If you see someone watching you from a distance, this should prompt you to seek safety. However, you should also take stock of some of your common behaviors. You have control over how far or how short your travel distance is to common destinations. Change it up. Take the long way one day and the short way the next. Vary distances you travel.
Demeanor – If you run into someone with an unusual demeanor, (they fail to make eye contact with you), this could be signal that he/she is watching you and trying to go undetected or unrecognized by you. An immediate demeanor change is a key indicator of someone conducting surveillance. The last thing that someone wants while conducting surveillance is to be spotted. When you practice the three above, (vary your time, environment and distance) you become unpredictable and force them to actively “look” for you because your actions are unpredictable. Their demeanor change is immediate as they try to conceal themselves. You will spot this change on your terms.
Getting into an unknown vehicle is always a risk. I hear stories all the time about people conned by an official-looking taxi. In one instance, someone was scammed by a cab in Romania, where they ended up paying 10x the standard rate to end the encounter peacefully. This event highlights just how vulnerable travelers are while hailing a taxi; it looked like a regular cab and was parked near the other taxis. To avoid any unpleasant encounters with an imposter taxi driver, always call your hotel ahead of time to arrange a pickup.
Police Stops (Fake or Real)
Criminals acting as police aren’t particularly common but can be dangerous when you let down your guard thinking you can trust them. If your gut tells you anything is wrong, ignore any signs to be pulled over and drive directly to the nearest police station or consular office. As an additional note, police in other countries may have many different responses to how they handle situations or may be expecting bribes for their ‘services.’ While being disrespectful to a cop in America might land a ticket, such actions can lead to being restrained or detained requiring a bribe payout in more aggressive or corrupt policing cultures.
Your hotel is the most reliable location a criminal can find you in your most vulnerable state: asleep. Hotel break-ins are more common in less developed areas and can even happen at resorts or other expensive stays. If possible, stay on the second or third floor, close to a fire escape, and in a hotel where a central reception and security screens visitors.
Once again, this location depends on you being more vulnerable than you would be otherwise, this time through intoxication. Research your nightlife destinations carefully before going out and take a taxi (that you hired through your hotel!) that will drop you off and pick you up directly at your destination(s). The standard rules apply here: never accept drinks from a stranger, throw out a glass if it’s left your eyesight, and stick to establishments with visible security.
Special Mention: Boating
The Horn of Africa is notorious for its piracy, but armed gunmen have kidnapped or killed unsuspecting boaters off many other coasts in Africa and South Asia, most notably Indonesia. If you enjoy sailing to exotic locations, make sure to take proper precautions by having ready access to distress lines in your destination and in locales through which you’re passing.
Remember it’s always best to vary your departure and arrival times and vary your routes. Routines make you an easier target so don’t be a creature of habit.