(KFVS) - Social media can be helpful, but sometimes it can cause more problems.
Laura Powers of Polaris, a leader in the fight against Human Trafficking, wrote an editorial in the LA Times about posts on Facebook that can be misleading. She cited a post in which a woman wrote a post about a shopping trip. The woman claimed two men followed her around the store and wrote that she believed she and her family were "targets of human traffickers."
"I find that it so misrepresents the dangers, warning signs and risks associated with sex trafficking that its readers and likers may now try to protect kids by watching for the wrong things in the wrong places," Powers said.
She said she has never seen, read or heard about a real sex-trafficking situation where the victim was abducted in broad daylight at a busy store.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't report suspicious activity.
"I would rather somebody report it, it checks out to be nothing than to not report it and it turns out to be something that we should have known about earlier," said Patrolman Richard McCall with Cape Girardeau Police Department.
According to Polarisproject.org, traffickers can work alone or in groups. Traffickers typically promise their victims a high-paying job, a loving relationship or new opportunities. Experts said the traffickers and their victims usually share the same national, ethnic or cultural background.
The United States Department of Justice reports that "traffickers around the world frequently prey on individuals who are poor, vulnerable, living in an unsafe or unstable situation, or are in search of a better life."
- Learn the indicators of human trafficking so you can help identify a potential trafficking victim. Human trafficking awareness training is available for individuals, businesses, first responders, law enforcement, educators, and federal employees, among others.
- If you are in the United States and believe someone may be a victim of human trafficking, report your suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline line at 1-888-373-7888.
- Trafficking victims, including undocumented individuals, are eligible for services and immigration assistance.
- Be a conscientious and informed consumer. Discover your slavery footprint, ask who picked your tomatoes or made your clothes, or check out the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. Encourage companies to take steps to investigate and prevent human trafficking in their supply chains and publish the information, including supplier or factory lists, for consumer awareness.
- Volunteer and support anti-trafficking efforts in your community.
- Meet with and/or write to your local, state, and federal government representatives to let them know you care about combating human trafficking, and ask what they are doing to address it.
- Host an awareness-raising event to watch and discuss films about human trafficking. For example, learn how modern slavery exists today; watch an investigative documentary about sex trafficking, or discover how human trafficking can affect global food supply chains.
- Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to an anti-trafficking organization.
- Encourage your local schools to partner with students and include modern slavery in their curricula. As a parent, educator, or school administrator, be aware of how traffickers target school-aged children.
- Be well-informed. Set up a web alert to receive current human trafficking news. Become familiar with public awareness materials available from the Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Homeland Security.
- Work with a local religious community or congregation to help stop trafficking by supporting a victim service provider or spreading awareness of human trafficking.
- Businesses: Provide jobs, internships, skills training, and other opportunities to trafficking survivors.
- Students: Take action on your campus. Join or establish a university club to raise awareness about human trafficking and initiate action throughout your local community. Consider doing one of your research papers on a topic concerning human trafficking. Request that human trafficking be included in university curricula.
- Health Care Providers: Learn how to identify the indicators of human trafficking and assist victims. With assistance from anti-trafficking organizations, extend low-cost or free services to human trafficking victims.
- Journalists: The media plays an enormous role in shaping perceptions and guiding the public conversation about human trafficking.
- Attorneys: Offer human trafficking victims legal services, including support for those seeking benefits or special immigration status. Resources are available for attorneys representing victims of human trafficking.