A 13-year old boy named Katlego Marite was abducted by kidnappers in eMalahleni, formerly Witbank, South Africa. A note with a Bitcoin (BTC) address was left at the scene specifying that a ransom of BTC 15 should be paid if the parents wanted to see their kid again.
As of this writing, the ransom is worth USD123,000. It appears to be the first known case in South Africa’s history where criminals demanded a ransom to be paid with cryptocurrency.
According to reports, the boy was playing with two friends on Frangipani Street when a gold Toyota Corolla pulled up. A man dressed in black with a green jacket grabbed the boy and drove off, and the boy’s friends ran home and told their mother who called the police.
It is unclear why the boy was specifically targeted. The parents were not even aware of Bitcoin or how to use it, so this kidnapping did not appear to target a stash of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin can provide a degree of anonymity when sending money, which is speculated to be the reason the kidnappers chose the currency. All they had to do was leave their Bitcoin address behind with no other identifying information. This is unlike Western Union, MoneyGram, or banks where identifying information is required to accept payments.
Realistically, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, in general, are the only private payment methods that can be used to transact from a distance. Except for its physical nature, cash is technically more anonymous than banks and payment providers like Western Union, since a normal cash transaction requires no identifying information.
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