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What Is a Ransom?

Ransom is the practice of holding an individual or object prisoner until a payment is made in exchange for their release. This practice is a form of extortion, blackmail, and coercion in that it requires compensation in order for an individual to secure whatever person, object, or information was taken.

A sum of money paid to an individual or party holding something or someone valuable as prisoner is commonly referred to as ransom. The noun may also be used as a verb in referring to the act of paying ransom. The use of ransom is frequent in cases of kidnapping, burglary, or hijacking, although the origin of ransom is ancient.

In ancient times, warring camps often offered each other ransom in return for hostages they may consider as valuable. Those who were not offered a ransom for were often used as slaves or eventually killed. However, the idea of ransom has evolved into something of value and not necessarily money. A person or object may be held for ransom in exchange for a priceless object or artifact, which may be artwork or real estate.

During hijacking events, the lives of individuals within the area or aboard a vehicle may be held for ransom. This is usually the case for hijackers who are trapped or confined to an area, and use the victims as ransom in order to gain safe passage or means of an escape. This scenario usually reflects the manner in which a ransom is used.

When receiving a note for ransom, it is important to contact a law enforcement agency at once.

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