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Brazil Limits Pix Payments Amid Kidnapping Spree 

A rash of “lightning kidnappings” in Brazil has forced the country’s central bank to restrict use of the Pix payment platform. 

As the Financial Times reported Monday (Sept. 6), these kidnappings involve people being grabbed off the streets and held until they made a cash transfer for ransom. 

While these types of crimes aren’t new in Brazil, the launch of the Pix system last year had led to their resurgence. In response, the BCB, the country’s central bank, has imposed limits on the 24/7 system.  

“These lightning kidnappings were kind of dormant. But since Pix entered the market in November last year, we have noticed a significant increase in cases,” Tarsio Severo, an investigator with the Department of Special Police Operations in São Paulo, told local media. 

Severo said police had made 100 arrests in kidnapping cases so far this year, and reported a nearly 40% increase in lightning kidnappings. 

The BCB’s security measures include a $200 transfer limit between individuals between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., a minimum wait time to increase transfer limits, and the ability to tailor transaction limits for day and at night, when kidnappings are more common.  

Related news: Brazil Upgrades Real-Time Payment Rails, Goes Live With Pix 

Pix launched in November of 2020 to a lot of acclaim, processing 10 million transactions per day in its first week. 

It was considered a game-changer for Brazil, where many people struggle with traditional bank’s slow and costly payment systems. According to the Financial Times, almost 100 million Brazilians use the platform to send money and pay bills.  

Kidnappings were especially popular in the earlier part of the 21st century in São Paulo and in Rio de Janeiro. In many cases, they involved wealthier citizens being targeted on their way home or to work and being held for ransom, or forced to withdraw money at an ATM. Many of these incidents ended in bloodshed, leading richer Brazilians to start driving cars with bulletproof or tinted windows. 

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