When it comes to social media, you always have to be careful about the information you retain, especially about human trafficking. For example, as Mamas Uncut previously reported, a photo of a black zip tie hanging from a car door handle went viral because of the story behind it.
The story was that a woman discovered the zip tie on her car and because she had “been warned about anything foreign” being attached to cars in the past, she walked passed her truck and sought help. After calling the police, the woman googled what the zip tie could mean, her search results told her that it could be an indication of “human trafficking.”
Why Human Trafficking Conspiracies Can Be Extremely Dangerous
However, according to Snopes, this isn’t exactly true. It’s more of a scare tactic like the officer who responded to the woman’s call told her. Now, more of those scare tactics are being revealed.
In an article by Inlander, a woman was walking out to her car after shopping when she discovered a pamphlet. The pamphlet was an advertisement for “a bizarre Jack Chick religious tract” and because she had seen a viral TikTok warning women about these alleged kidnapping tactics she became scared.
“There was this thing that went viral on the news and on TikTok, I think, about how people are leaving fake pamphlets and fake tickets on your windshield,” the woman recounted in an Instagram video, according to Inlander. “And then when you grab it, they kidnap you. Or they have been using people for sex trafficking, and that’s their technique for grabbing people.”
The woman immediately went back into the store to call Crime Checkers because she didn’t feel safe. She told the first responder that she needed “someone here right now. I don’t know if they’re in the store with me. I don’t know if they’re watching me. … We’re waiting in the store and I’m trying not to cry.”
The video of this woman’s experience also went viral. However, as Inlander reveals, there are no facts pointing to these tactics being legitimate. In an interview with Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Mark Gregory, he reveals to Inlander that after looking into these claims, he found no evidence that these warnings are something on police radar.
“I went around and talked to crime analysis, I talked to the sexual assault unit, a task force that deals with human trafficking, on and on and on.” Additionally, Sgt. Terry Preuninger said the same thing.
After speaking with others in law enforcement about the rumor that sex traffickers or kidnappers were putting things on cars to carry out abductions, Preuninger said, “We could not come up with a single incident.”
Erin Williams Hueter, director of Lutheran Community Services Northwest, also said the same things. However, she also said that while she “can’t discount anything out of hand,” Hueter “urges caution about relying on any sensational claims about the issue.”
The Inlander also talked with the Polaris Project. The Polaris Project runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline and states that most human trafficking abductions are done by people the victims know rather than complete strangers. “We strongly caution against spreading stories with potentially misleading information about human trafficking recruitment tactics as they may ultimately cause more harm than good,” the Project explained.
As Inlander explained, while it is understandable why the woman was afraid, these false narratives can have serious consequences. One of the examples the website gave was an incident back that occurred in Coeur d’Alene in 2014.
“The cops were called on a van when a coffee shop owner incorrectly concluded it matched the description of a suspicious vehicle that had been suspected of watching young children. The police officers ended up shooting a two-year-old black lab dog, devastating the owner, and sparking nationwide outrage.”
Williams Hueter also told Inlander that by spreading the idea that human trafficking victims are often taken via these elaborate unfounded schemes, it can hinder actual victims from realizing what is happening to them. Like the Polaris Project explains, human trafficking victims are often sold by people they know, not strangers.
“These are people who are coerced into human trafficking. And they thinkGuess I’m not a victim of [trafficking,] because I wasn’t kidnapped.’ They weren’t locked in a basement. They weren’t tied up.”
For those who know a potential victim of human trafficking or think they might be one themselves, they can call or text the Lutheran Community Services Northwest crisis line at 509-624-7273.