It’s easy to forget the kind of horror that exists in the world. Most of us wake up in cozy homes or apartments with jobs that pay the bills. What we don’t realize is that sex trafficking is one of the largest growing crimes in the world. Over 24 million people are in the human trafficking trade today. Of those 24 million, approximately 57,700 of those people come from the United States, and about 57% of those people are women and children. Men and boys are also victims of sex trafficking and make up about 23,000 worldwide. This affects us, and we should be prepared and know the warning signs of potential trafficking threats.
Suspicious signs online
The digital world has opened us up to a lot of opportunities, but also potential harm. Here are some places where you may encounter suspicious behavior so you can spot it.
Most of us use job sites to look for work, but there are some people who have another agenda. Here are some warning signs to be mindful of when you’re on the job hunt. If the company comes with perks but has little information in the job description, phrases like “high pay," “no experience required," and requiring a phone call to specific number for more information are signs the job posting may not be what it seems.
Another sign of dishonesty is if the “company" doesn’t ask any questions. Any real workplace will want to know more about you and your experience. If at this point you still don’t have any concerns about the job, the location of the interview may give you a better idea. Before you show up for an interview, it’s a good idea to Google search the location. Make sure it is in a safe neighborhood, is a working facility, and that you never agree to meet at someone’s house. Some businesses do interviews at a coffee shop, but never agree to go to a private location. Also, make sure you research before meeting the interviewer. If there are no websites linked to the company, or what you do find looks sketchy, trust your gut and stay away.
What if the job is remote and there are no physical interviews? You can still watch out for weird contracts, like ones in different languages. Never sign a document you can’t read or understand. Even if they offer one of their employees to translate and help you out, don’t believe it.
Lastly, be wary of companies that offer sign-on bonuses or other forms of money that don’t come directly from work. This may be nothing, but sometimes scammers use this tactic because they know people usually don’t give their account numbers for direct deposits. So if you give your home address and a check appears in the mail, the scammer knows your name, address, and possibly more information.
Online dating apps:
A lot of us are looking for love, but there are some things that you should bear in mind while swiping. If the other person is expressing their love for you after just a few days of chatting, you may want to stay away. While his or her intentions may be honest, traffickers are looking for people who are easily influenced by emotions. Also, be wary of online hookups. Some people are looking to lure you out for other reasons.
So you found that special someone, but they live far away. Some boyfriends or girlfriends offer to pay or find means to pay for their partner to come visit. While often it is entirely innocent, sometimes that person is looking for you to owe them and force you into paying off your “debt." This typically happens in relationships that have just sprouted. As a general rule of thumb, get to know them as best you can before agreeing to let them into your physical life.
Being safe when traveling
There are many beautiful sights in the world, and a lot of them require traveling. Prepare yourself for these situations. If you don’t know the language, culture, or where you are going, you need to be even more mindful of these safety tips. Always research the place you are visiting. Know the adresses of where you are going and try to learn some of the language. When you arrive, be aware of strangers. It seems pretty obvious. How many of us were taught “stranger danger" as kids? Traffickers are skilled scammers that know just what to say and how to say it to lure their victims into their trap. It’s best to avoid people you don’t know in foreign places.
Solo travel is fun, but when you go to a foreign country, greater numbers are always better. Traffickers are a lot less likely to approach you if they see you are part of a group.
Warning signs someone is being trafficked
This article is not just about how you can save yourself from these situations, but also how you might be able to help others. It can be difficult to spot someone who is being trafficked, but there are a few signs to be aware of.
How to spot traffickers:
Traffickers tend to be very physical towards and possessive of their victims. They are typically older than who they are with, have violent tendencies, encourage bad behavior, and buy expensive gifts to earn trust. They are vague about their personal life (especially about their occupation), and make their victims feel dependent on them for survival.
How to spot a victim:
Victims are typically malnourished, bruised or have other signs of abuse. They are overly tired, miss class or work often, have a withdrawn personality or are depressed and in poor health. They check into hotels often, fear authority (such as the police), and show off money and valuable articles. They have an older significant other or have certain, strange tattoos (this is often a sign of “branding" the trafficker requires their victim have).
The world can be an amazing place, but we must not be blind to the reality of the evils that occur daily. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be aware. Don’t use your phone when walking to or from your car and always keep your car doors locked. Keep your eyes open for suspicious behaviors or people, trust your gut, and don’t be alone in the dark. Look people in the eye so they know you see them and can report them in the event they try to attack you, but don’t put yourself in unnecessary danger. If you see someone you think might be in trouble, report it. For more information on reporting suspicious behavior, look at this site.