Social media increases risk for human trafficking

8 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, June 06 2019 Jun 6, 2019 Thursday, June 06, 2019 4:55:00 PM CDT June 06, 2019 in News
By: Monica Madden, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - In a increasingly digital world, human trafficking has become easier for predators who use social media and other online platforms. 

University of Missouri student Alyssa Schallenberg was one of the potential victims target using social media.

An unknown person sent a friend request to Schallenberg on Snapchat, pretending to be someone she actually knew. 

That person waited a few weeks before messaging her and offered Schallenberg a “quick way” to earn nearly $1,000.

“At the time I was like, I’m a broke college kid. Obviously that is going to get my attention,” Schallenberg said. 

After back and forth messaging, she realized the person was not who she thought it was and she blocked the account. 

“I just thought it was sketchy," Schallenberg said. "It wasn’t my first thought that it would be a sex trafficker or someone that wasn’t my friend."

Nanette Ward, chair of the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, said what happened to Schallenberg isn’t out of the ordinary. She said people have gotten used to putting a lot of personal information online and predators are making use of it.

Predators can take advantage of someones' personal information on social media to lure them in. 

"We have just flung the doors wide open, total and complete exposure, and they’re using that to their advantage.”

Ward said, prior to the internet and social media, traffickers had more limited means of finding and recruiting victims. They would lurk around playgrounds and other public places to find someone vulnerable enough to fall into their trap, she said. 

However, social media allows direct entry points for traffickers to target victims anonymously from behind a screen. 

“Social media creates a forum for them to do that,” said Sandy Sieben, who studies human trafficking at the University of Toledo. “It's like ‘here, here's a book about me. Read all about me, learn everything you want to know.’” 

Traffickers do not have a single type of victim but some demographics are more susceptible, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Runaways and young people who are homeless, foreign nationals and those who have experienced physical or emotional abuse have all been historically targeted.

Ward said social media has paved the way to more diversity in sex trafficking victims. She stressed anyone can be targeted. 

“Now, because you have social media access by all socioeconomic groups, you have people who may not normally be at risk,” she said. 

Seven in 10 Americans use some form of social media, according to the Pew Research Center.  Ditching all forms of social media may be out of the question for some. Seiben said people who choose to stay hooked in should take precautions.

“Make sure that your privacy settings are at the highest level of security. Never communicate, share photos or personal information with anybody on social media, even if they say, ‘Oh, I’m your friend,’” she said.

Ward said people should research the platforms they are using and what their policies are in case of an incident. 

Schallenberg said she has changed the way she uses social media, and encourages her friends to do the same.

“I think that whole situation like made me a little bit more conscious of it, like you don't need to put your whole life on social media," she said.

The below graphic offers a brief overview of how different apps compare.

Anyone who suspects they or someone they may know is being targeted by a potential sex trafficker should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

More News

Grid
List
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Firefighters are more likely to die by suicide, than in the line of duty, according to a... More >>
9 minutes ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 3:48:57 PM CST February 20, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
JEFFERSON CITY - A Columbia man was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing a firearm. Samuel Ernest... More >>
29 minutes ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 3:29:00 PM CST February 20, 2020 in News
A new report shows "active shooter drills" might be doing more harm than good. Today, 95% of schools participate in... More >>
46 minutes ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 3:11:55 PM CST February 20, 2020 in A Brighter Tomorrow
COLUMBIA - Local police responded to a "shots fired" call Wednesday at approximately 10:33 p.m. at the 100 block of... More >>
55 minutes ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 3:03:00 PM CST February 20, 2020 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Investigators believe Joseph Elledge strangled or suffocated his wife and disposed of her body in a... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 2:51:00 PM CST February 20, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate has passed legislation that would provide a tax incentive to save money... More >>
2 hours ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:56:00 PM CST February 20, 2020 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Joseph Elledge, the husband of missing Columbia woman Mengqi Ji, has been charged with first-degree murder, according... More >>
4 hours ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 11:00:00 AM CST February 20, 2020 in News
ASHLAND - A lawsuit against Ashland Mayor, Gene Rhorer, brought up instances of Rhorer asking Police Chief Lyn Woolford to... More >>
5 hours ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 10:09:00 AM CST February 20, 2020 in News
BOONE COUNTY - Multiple law enforcement agencies have been conducting an investigation on scene in west Columbia. Public Information... More >>
9 hours ago Thursday, February 20 2020 Feb 20, 2020 Thursday, February 20, 2020 6:06:00 AM CST February 20, 2020 in News
LAS VEGAS — The latest on the 2020 presidential campaign and Democratic debate 6 p.m. Six Democratic... More >>
19 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 8:07:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
SPRINGFIELD- A retired Catholic priest has been charged in Missouri with multiple counts of child sexual abuse stemming from... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 7:54:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - While the snow disappears with warmer weather, potholes are opening in roads around mid-Missouri. Street division employees... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 5:43:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A U.S. Army Veteran is passing through Jefferson City on Thursday as part of his effort to... More >>
23 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 4:37:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
ASHLAND - After the Landmark Bank and Simmons First National merger on February 18, residents in Ashland are seeing some... More >>
23 hours ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 4:16:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Clean Missouri was approved by 62% of Missourians in 2018. Now, some Missouri lawmakers want to reverse... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 3:19:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - A public defender representing a Columbia man who plotted a terrorist attack has asked for a 15-year sentence.... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:43:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – People from all around Missouri and lawmakers packed into a hearing room in the Missouri Capitol Wednesday... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:22:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia parents and candidates for the Columbia Board of Education met Wednesday to discuss special education. This... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, February 19 2020 Feb 19, 2020 Wednesday, February 19, 2020 2:04:00 PM CST February 19, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 30°
4pm 30°
5pm 28°
6pm 25°
7pm 24°