CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We have talked about the dark side of the internet and that dark side has become the very place human traffickers are doing their dirty work.
The Carolinas, particularly Charlotte, are a hotbed for the human trafficking trade because of our proximity to so many highways. They give traffickers easy access in and out of town to steal their victims away.
However, the internet is playing a larger role than ever in giving traffickers access to potential victims.
WBTV's cyber expert, Theresa Payton of Fortalice Solutions, shared with us some tips on how to protect your loved ones. Her information and advice follows:
THE INTERNET POWERS TRAFFICKING:
1. HOW TRAFFICKERS MEET THEIR BUYERS:
--Online Auctions: Craigslist is considered a magnet for international sex trade of children via the adult services section.
--Photo Sharing Sites: Bypasses printing photos and allows operations to disseminate photos online for viewing by prospective buyers.
2. HOW TRAFFICKERS TRAP ADULTS AND KIDS:
--Online Ads: Ads offering great jobs at high pay in big cities. Often they hide behind ads for modeling, singing, or acting. Sometimes they will offer to fly the person to the other city for the "interview".
--Social Media: Cybercreeps will use Chatrooms, social sites such as Facebook and MySpace, to recruit or trick kids into joining their trafficking scheme. They use these sites and blogs to connect to other cybercreeps to barter, trade, and sell their victims.
--Posing as a friend or supporter: They look for someone online that is posting feelings of sadness, loneliness, or anger and they provide "support" in an effort to befriend them.
--Meeting in person: Finding out the things that the potential victim likes such as a movie, shopping place, or place to eat and arranging to meet them in person at a place that sounds safe and familiar. They might use social sharing apps that tell locations of people that "want to meet people" to find their prey.
1. Stranger danger applies online - even if they post a picture or seem to know who you are
2. Know what sites your kids' visit
3. Make sure kids know that they should always tell you if someone asks them or their friends to meet them in person
4. If you are an adult, never meet someone in person that you meet online unless you have run a background check; and have a buddy system, arrive and leave with a friend in your own vehicle or have a friend check in on you at the location
NC takes this seriously.
North Carolina's safe harbor law was signed into law in July 2013 and passed the N.C. General Assembly. If someone is caught breaking a law but the state determines they were forced into it via a human trafficking scheme they will get leniency. If the person is a minor, the person will be placed into temporary protective custody .
Starting next year, 2016, all state law enforcement officers will be required to be trained in handling human trafficking.
HOW TO SPOT THE WARNING SIGNS IN KIDS/TEENS/YOUNG ADULTS:
Many of the warning signs that a child is a victim of trafficking, or is being recruited, are similar to signs that the child is being cyberbullied or being groomed by a pedophile. They may include one or more of the following:
Runs away or discusses running away from home
Exhibits bruises, suddenly withdraws from social gatherings, displays depression
Demonstrates a sudden change in attire
Behavior becomes erratic, severe mood swings
Suddenly has material possessions given to them by a "friend"
Hides emails, text messages, or other online posts
Extreme change in online behavior – suddenly online all the time or suddenly not interested in being online
HOW TO REPORT SUSPECTED TRAFFICKING:
1.Contact local law enforcement
2.If you are unsure and want to talk through the situation first, you can start with the National 24/7 Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
3.If you want to report an incident, you can do so at the National Center's CyberTipline at 1-800-the-lost or online by clicking here.
4.The FBI Human Trafficking Hotline is open 24 hours: 866.252.6850.
5. Immediate help: National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). (note: The NHTRC is not a law enforcement or immigration authority)
There are several websites that provide helpful information about Human trafficking. We have highlighted a few of them below:
North Carolina Resources:
Global Awareness, Outreach, and Victim Services: Polaris Project
Check Your Chain Store's Policies and write them letters about Human Trafficking here.
Information on Global and U.S. Issues here.