“How do human traffickers choose their victims” is a question that has been on many minds lately, especially parents of young children– and for good reason. It is no secret that the dangers of human trafficking are real.
While there is not one single way that traffickers spot human trafficking targets, there are many misconceptions about how the industry operates. The idea that traffickers use the Hollywood-esque “kidnapping” style of grabbing a person from the side of the road and throwing them into a nondescript van with blindfolds and binds is just not true. In reality, the methods used to select human trafficking targets are much more personal and much more startling.
In truth, it’s good that the question of how human traffickers pick their victims is on people’s minds, because it means that awareness about the dangers of human trafficking are circulating. Awareness is a huge ally in the fight against human trafficking. Understanding how human traffickers pick their victims can help parents, friends, and loved ones protect those they care about and prevent them from falling into a vicious trap.
Human traffickers target individuals, as opposed to groups. This is an important distinction, as they learn all they can about an individual, usually by stalking them. Traffickers actively seek out individuals with certain triggers, such as addiction tendencies, lack of family support structures, dissociation from a community based on language (or other) barriers, and many others. The bottom line, individuals that are preyed on by human traffickers want something, and human traffickers pose themselves as the provider of this missing piece. Whether it’s love, money, family, a job, or one of many other factors that may be “missing” from a person’s life.
So, how do these traffickers know about these factors? The internet is often the main connection between both human traffickers and potential victims. The internet offers outlets to just about everything, and people who are seeking something “better” will spend a lot of time browsing and searching until they find what they want.
If a young person is lonely, for instance, they might tell the world about it on social media. They may also find their way to chat rooms looking for companionship. These searches are innocent enough, merely some sort of void that the individual is looking to fill. But human traffickers are skilled at spotting this sort of behavior, and exploiting it. They pose as the answer that this individual has been seeking and slowly and steadily gain more and more of their trust, until the relationship is solid.
In examples like this one, these young people are mixed up in a human trafficking situation before they realize it, and many times it is too late. The internet poses a big risk for potential victims of human trafficking, and such a potential avenue of exploitations for human traffickers.
Not Just the Internet
Though the internet may have changed the game when it comes to how human traffickers choose their victims, it is by no means the only avenue of approach to human trafficking targets. Traffickers may also get to know someone in a park, bar, or any public place. The same trigger factors apply, such as loneliness or dependency issues, and human traffickers can isolate them and work themselves into a situation where they are an outlet for the individual.
Many people grew up hearing advice like “don’t take candy from strangers.” And while this advice is true, this causes many young minds to believe in the Hollywood-esque approach of being swiftly snatched up on the spot. But again, human traffickers play the long game, and candy today means more candy tomorrow and more candy the next day, until this candy is all the victim wants. Substitute candy for love or a friendly relationship (or romantic relationship) or any of the other “missing” factors, and you can begin to understand the dangers at play.
There are Tools Available
It is important to note that recurring triggers have given awareness to how human traffickers pick their victims, but also how to spot traffickers more readily as well. Because of this, many tools and safety measures have been developed to make sure people (especially children) have protections when visiting new or potentially dangerous places on the internet.
For example, cell phone manufacturers and providers have started promoting safety features to better protect their users. From giving parents additional control over their children’s phone settings to family GPS sharing to website blocking, companies are increasingly taking part in the fight against human trafficking as awareness continues to spread.
You Can Play a Role
As mentioned, awareness is the biggest defense against human trafficking targeting. But you don’t have to wait for cell phone tools or school seminars. Human trafficking awareness should begin in your home. Speak to your children about the dangers of human trafficking on a regular basis. The goal is not to scare your children, but to inform them of the real dangers, and help them recognize the warning signs of human trafficking. Things like establishing boundaries and helping them understand the dangers of chatting with people in chat rooms can go a long way towards protecting a child from becoming a human trafficking target.
Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking
You can do your part on your end, as we are doing our part on our end to make sure that human trafficking is put to an end once and for all. There is no question that the fight takes many players, and we all have our own roles to do. But one thing is for certain– efforts to keep the human trafficking fight going in full force requires funding.
By donating to the DeliverFund, you can take the fight to the human traffickers themselves, save lives, and keep potential victims safe. Join the fight by donating to DeliverFund.