Learn How to Recognize Human Trafficking and How You Can Protect Yourself
Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion on an individual to provide labor or sexual acts. Millions of people globally are forced into labor through coercion, manipulation, and fraud. Traffickers operate in our communities and social media, targeting those who are economically vulnerable. Learn how traffickers lure their victims in and how you can protect yourself in the social media era.
How Traffickers Lure People In
Traffickers target people that they know either online or in real life. This could include a romantic partner, family member, or a supposed friend. Traffickers often lure their victims in by building a relationship with them so they feel safe. Online, a predator may act as a friend, romantic partner, or amazing job opportunity. They give you a sense of hope that feels like everything can finally fall perfectly into place almost right away. This feeling does not last long.
Victims do not realize they are being tricked until it’s too late. A trafficker may have provided a victim shelter that they cannot afford to lose. Or they threaten to have the victim deported if they do not work for little to no pay. It all happens so quickly that the victim is trapped with no other options.
Who Are the Most Vulnerable?
We all like to think human trafficking predators are these boogeymen on the streets, but in reality, they are often the neighbors, relatives, friends, and romantic partners. This includes both people online and in real life. Anyone can fall victim to human trafficking, but some are at higher risk than others.
Those who are most often targeted include people who:
- Are living under unsuitable or unstable conditions
- Have a history of sexual or physical abuse
- Have substance abuse issues
- Are undocumented citizens
- Are not connected to a community
- Have a language barrier
- Are under 18 years old
What to Look Out for In Employment Opportunities
The job market is competitive, and predators know that. They take advantage of those who are looking to get cash fast and easy. Financial hardships cause stress, and many under stress trying to find a way out may take a job that will solve that right away. But before you agree to anything or even apply to a job, take a moment and think of what your intuition tells you. If something feels off, then don’t be afraid to ask questions. Other factors to look out for include:
- Promises of high paying jobs that seem too easy or good to be true
- Offers the job almost right away
- Offers a place to live (often at the employer’s residence or business)
- Charges fees for employment
If you want to verify a potential employer’s legitimacy, ask for their Employer Identification Number (EIN) and call the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at 800-829-4933.
How to Protect Yourself On Social Media
83% of active 2020 sex trafficking cases involved online solicitation. That statistic cannot be ignored. There are a lot of people online who are not who they say they are – or have the intentions that they claim they do. Social media is where most traffickers target underaged victims, which has become a growing problem in recent years. Predators direct message (DM) their victims flattering messages or offer them a job that could make them good money for “an easy task.” The easiest way to avoid these messages is to ignore DM’s from accounts you do not know or trust.
[RELATED: Are You Being Catfished?]
A missing 11 year old girl in Georgia was recently found and believed she was a victim of human trafficking. The perpetrator? A male adult she met online who has yet to be identified. She considered him a friend, but he had much darker intentions. There are countless stories like this, so we strongly urge you to be careful with who you interact with online.
- Set strict privacy settings
- Don’t overshare finances or hardships
- Be cautious of any DM requests
- Anything that seems too good to be true probably is
If You Suspect Human Trafficking Activity, Call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888
If it is an emergency, call 911 right away.
To report human trafficking or for additional information, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text “Help” or “Info” to 233722.
And on social media, stay vigilant and report any suspicious pages or user activities to the network as well as the authorities. You could make a significant difference in your life or someone else’s.