Human Trafficking: The Tactics of Predators

“‘With the young girls, you promise them heaven, they’ll follow you to hell,’… said a pimp convicted of child sex trafficking” (Source). Who could do such things to innocent children? How can people like this exist? I don’t know. But they do and they are snatching up our children to exploit for sexual slavery and labor. How do they lure children away? Where do they commit these crimes? How can you prevent this from happening to your children? Let’s first examine some common tactics of human traffickers.

Predators choose children because they can be vulnerable and naive. They commonly seek children that are alone, isolated, poor, rebellious, come from an abusive/fractured home or have emotional and physical needs. Kids with these traits are more likely to respond positively to a stranger’s approach. They have significant needs in their lives and all too easily believe the tempting lies of predators. These kidnappers exploit the dreams of children by making false promises of wealth, gifts, freedom and love. Any teen or child hangout area might be targeted, but schools, malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, parks, concerts and parties are sites stalked by kidnappers. These areas are populated by youth and are large enough that opportunities exist to isolate children from their friends and families. Isolated children are much more likely to be targeted, so make sure your child is always with someone else.

Additionally — and with increasing frequency — predators are using social media and dating sites to develop relationships and build trust. Each year the FBI receives hundreds of complaints about children who have been victimized through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter,, Friendster, Xanga and Foursquare. A “survey of 10 to 17-year-olds revealed 46 percent admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know. The likelihood that kids will give out personal information over the Internet increases with age, with 56 percent of 16 to 17-year-olds most likely sharing personal information” (Source). Predators typically pose as children close in age to the victims and then either travel to meet the children or convince the children to perform sexual acts online.

Online and in-person, pimps approach children in various ways. The “boyfriend” approach involves showing romantic interest by building a relationship (often via social media) before meeting in person and coercing them into prostitution. Some predators will approach as a “dad” figure and promise to care for the children, be their “daddy”, offer provisions and love them. Drugs are often used to alter the mindset of the victims and create a drug dependency, forcing them to return repeatedly to the pimp to feed their addiction. Fake job postings about seasonal farm work, hotel and restaurant work, warehouse positions, nannies and student travel programs have also been used to recruit victims. Pimps will even use their own women to recruit young girls.

So what can you do? What steps should you be taking to protect your children? The best thing is to be active in your children’s lives – be aware of divergent behavior, monitor their computer usage, communicate openly and establish trust so your kids feel comfortable sharing with you. Learn more about the indicators and the Guardian Seal® Training and stay informed.