Growing use of an instant money transfer app leads to express kidnappings in the Brazilian city of São Paulo – a crime that now only requires a password and the push of a button to steal large sums to victims.
In an interview with BBC News Brazil, Tarcio Severo, an official with São Paulo Police’s anti-kidnapping unit, said law enforcement has seen an increase in express kidnappings in which victims are forced to transfer money through Pix, an instant payment system. created by the central bank of Brazil which was launched in November of last year.
He said the criminal gangs involved in thefts can be sophisticated and work as a team. A group leads the assault, monitoring and assaulting the victim, who is often taken hostage. The other cell receives banking information and money from Pix transactions.
SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile
According to the BBC, a victim was hit on the head and then tied up. Using his stolen cell phone, the criminals transferred over 100,000 reals (approximately $ 20,000) in three hours.
Another round of Pix-related thefts in late August involved a gang targeting carpool drivers, Globo reported. A driver said he was attacked while dropping off a couple in the south of the city. When the woman got out of the car, the man grabbed the driver as a third person approached with a gun. The shooter asked the driver to transfer 4,000 reals (approximately $ 764).
The driver said he was told to “collaborate” and that “the goal is just the Pix”.
“After that, I gave them the password, and they ended up doing this transaction,” the driver said.
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The Pix money transfer app not only helps speed up express kidnappings, which have been happening for a long time in a number of Latin American cities, but also entices more criminals to participate in the violent trade.
The São Paulo police official said gangs involved in other crimes, such as break-ins, migrate to express kidnappings after “finding out that Pix allows them to transfer a large sum of money in a short period of time. of time “.
In the past, this type of express kidnapping took place overnight. Typically, criminals masqueraded as taxi drivers or pushed targets – often businessmen or travelers – into nearby cars. The victims were then forced to make maximum withdrawals from ATMs. They were often held until midnight, after which a new withdrawal limit takes effect. The withdrawal process then resumed.
SEE ALSO: Increase in “express” kidnappings is a sign of Colombia’s criminal development
In Colombia, the crime has become so common that it has been given a nickname – paseo millionaire (the millionaire’s race). In Ecuador, a presidential candidate became the target of this extortion tactic while campaigning in 2013.
Another form of express kidnapping sees victims being caught and then detained for prompt ransom payment by loved ones. These kidnappings were commonplace in the early 2010s in a number of Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and others.
In Brazil, the increase in express kidnappings using Pix has led banks to ask Pix to change their regulations to combat extortion and theft targeting their customers. Among the demands is the reduction of early morning transfer limits. They also demand that Pix allow banks to stop transferring large amounts of money if they don’t match their customers’ spending habits.
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