Top ransom experts have warned that Australians were being abducted off the streets in countries including France and held for several hours while their bank accounts were emptied.
Specialised risk broker Stening Simpson partner Peter Stening warned shoppers were the main targets and their abductors watched them for several days before striking.
In some cases the family had been contacted and told to transfer thousands of dollars into the accounts before the person would be freed.
“Australians are definitely being targeted, but you never hear about it because our industry does not want it to get out,” Mr Stening said.
“They take you off the street, hold you for three or four hours, empty your credit cards, then usually let you go.”
Up to 40 Australians have been abducted overseas this year.
The number of insurance policies to protect Australian workers jumped to 40,000 in the past 12 months, up by almost 17,000 from 2011.
The increase was due to more Australians were working in countries where kidnappings were common.
The news comes as Australian Warren Richard Rodwell, held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines for more than a year, has appeared in a video as proof that he is still alive.
To stop kidnappers increasing their demands, few cases had been reported in the media.
The case of Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout was the best known in recent years.
Brennan and Lindhout were kidnapped in Somalia in 2008.
Neither had insurance and were tortured for 15 months while experts negotiated their release.

Story in the Herald Sun – 30 December 2012