HomeNoticiasVenezuela Kidnappers Posing as Car Sellers to Lure Victims

The Venezuelan police have stepped in amid a spate of violent crimes caused by gang members pretending to sell cars online. The offer: people can use police stations to finalize transactions.

Douglas Rico, the head of Venezuela's criminal investigation unit (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas – CICPC), wrote on Instagram that citizens could go to CICPC stations around the country to safely exchange products sold on Facebook Marketplace.

The reason for this intervention is that a full 70 percent of express kidnappings in the country originate through false vehicle sales on Marketplace, according to CICPC data from April 2021.

This is the latest in a series of attempts to reduce the number of such crimes. In late August, the CICPC set up 31 "prevention points for crimes linked to social media" nationwide and started a campaign to alert people about these types of scams.

SEE ALSO: General's Murder Hints at Complete Impunity for Venezuela Megabandas

The scheme is simple: Gangs post adverts for cars or motorcycles and arrange to meet with interested buyers, usually in an isolated place. Once the buyer arrives, they are robbed, or even kidnapped, with a heavy ransom demanded from their families. A number of these victims have been found dead.

In early August, five people were killed, including two army personnel, in just one week after being drawn in by vehicle adverts, according to Venezuelan media reports.

InSight Crime Analysis

The CICPC is reacting to a genuine threat but it is uncertain if the campaign can make a difference.

Most of these cases occur in and around the capital, Caracas, and the neighboring states of Vargas and Miranda. Express kidnappings and associated violence have become rampant in 2021, following a drop in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Far more needs to be done than offering safe havens.

SEE ALSO: In Venezuela, Crime Literally Doesn't Pay

Venezuela's crippling economic crisis has made other criminal economies unviable and unprofitable. Street crime and muggings have gone down because people no longer carry cash with them, the Associated Press has reported. Many small-time gangs even struggle to afford ammunition.

But the increasing use of the US dollar has boosted the economy slightly and given Venezuelans a new way of buying products. The Marketplace scams have soared largely due to this trend, creating a condition where victims will definitely be carrying cash.

Kidnappers have even diversified their ransom demands, most commonly asking for payment in US dollars, but on occasion, in gold and even bitcoin.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content

BOLIVIA / 1 JAN 2015

Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world in terms of homicides and 2015 is unlikely to see…

COLOMBIA / 19 JUL 2012

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced at a meeting of high-ranking Colombian military officials that regional security commanders from…


Thieves in Venezuela have begun stealing hair -- which can be sold for around $80 on the black market --…

About InSight Crime


Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…


InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…


Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…


Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…


Informing US State Department and European Union

1 APR 2022

InSight Crime Co-director McDermott briefed the US State Department and other international players on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela and the implication this has for both nations.  McDermott…