Kidnapping appears to be increasing in Argentina amidst a crime wave that could be a side effect of the country’s growing domestic drug market and role as a drug transit nation. According to statistics from the Attorney General’s Office accessed by La Nacion, 696 kidnappings were reported in Argentina between January 1 and September 30 this year. Of these, 201 — just under 29 percent — occurred in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. The majority of the kidnapping victims were chosen randomly and held hostage in vehicles rather than in safe houses, reported La Nacion. Express kidnappings in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area often start out as vehicle robberies, then morph into kidnappings if the driver is perceived as being wealthy. In one prominent case in July, the father of professional soccer player Carlos Tevez was kidnapped for five hours after a criminal group attempted to steal his vehicle and realized who he was. According to La Nacion, only a small number of kidnappings involve a criminal group that is deliberately targeting a specific individual. Some of the kidnapping groups that operate in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area employ sophisticated tactics, such as listening to police radio frequencies and taking precautions to keep their calls from being traced. Groups also transfer victims from one vehicle to another and keep them in constant movement to reduce the probability that security forces will be able to locate them. In addition to demanding cash ransoms, there have also been reports of kidnapping groups asking for weapons in exchange for a hostage’s release. In some cases, the groups also force the victim to drive to his or her home so they can steal cash and valuables. Although the majority of the kidnappings reported in the 2014 figures are likely extortive kidnappings, the Attorney General’s Office cautioned that some may be cases of “virtual” kidnappings — in which a perpetrator calls up a victim and pretends to have kidnapped his or her family member — mistakenly reported as extortive. As of May 2014, police were registering around 200 cases of virtual kidnappings a week in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. There have also been cases of virtual kidnappers using technology to make their claims seem more believable. Perpetrators have hacked into social media accounts or cell phones, and impersonated the “victim” in order to convince family and friends that akidnapping has actually taken place.