We’re all doing our best to make it through the coronavirus pandemic and keep a positive outlook. That can be hard to do in difficult times like these.
Cybercriminals don’t help matters when they piggyback on COVID-19 fears and use them to attack unsuspecting victims. Tap or click here for a complete list of coronavirus scams to watch for.
Unfortunately, coronavirus isn’t the only frightening thing in the world right now. Popular online sites are being overrun by human traffickers, too.
FBI issues stern human trafficking PSA
The FBI is asking everyone to remain vigilant of the threat posed by criminals who seek to traffic victims via force, fraud or coercion through popular social media and online dating sites.
The agency issued a public service announcement this week addressing the horrifying issue. It warned that offenders are exploiting dating apps and websites to recruit and later advertise sex trafficking victims.
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Plus, criminals are increasingly recruiting labor trafficking victims through what appear to be legitimate job offers. They may pose as job recruiters or agents for modeling agencies, misrepresenting their true intentions to the victims.
Human traffickers prey on vulnerable individuals, appearing to offer help to those who struggle with finances, low self-esteem or have severe family problems. By meeting victims online, traffickers establish a false sense of trust and eventually force victims into sex work or forced labor.
In the U.S., people are being bought, sold and smuggled as modern-day slaves. Shockingly, the FBI claims many Americans unknowingly encounter trafficking victims through everyday activities without even knowing it.
What to do about human trafficking
The FBI is asking for help in tracking down human traffickers. If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of human trafficking of any kind, follow these tips:
Contact your local law enforcement agency, your local FBI field office (contact info can be found at fbi.gov) or:
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline – call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
- File a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov; or
- Contact the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov.
- To report possible trafficking involving minors, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or at Cybertipline.org.
Victims should keep all original documentation, emails, texts and logs of communication with the criminal. Don’t delete anything before it’s reviewed by law enforcement.
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Also, tell law enforcement everything about the online encounters to help find the offender(s). When reporting online scams, be as descriptive as possible in the complaint form by providing the following information:
- Name and/or user name of the subject.
- Email addresses and phone numbers used by the subject.
- Websites used by the subject.
- Descriptions of all interactions with the subject.
Give law enforcement as much information as possible so they have a better chance to apprehend the suspect. Any information you have could help end the unthinkable practice of human trafficking.