Beware of human traffickers during busy holiday shopping


With big crowds and distracted shoppers, the holiday season can be the perfect setting for human traffickers.

This type of criminal may not always be obvious or even an adult. Since the Tennessee Valley has been called a hot spot for human trafficking, those on the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force say to be vigilant. There’s more too it than just “stranger danger.”

“We’re also seeing where teens, peers the same age would be making the approach because they’ve been recruited by the traffickers themself,” said David Pinkleton with the task force.

If a kid their age approaches your child their guard is probably down. Task force members say to talk with your kids and don’t let them give out their phone number to just anyone.

“That allows the trafficker, they’ve got your number, they can use the GPS to locate where your child is,” Pinkleton said. “But they can also start grooming your child because they can actually start texting and they can build a relationship with them.”

The task force reports traffickers try to lure people in with a job offer or opportunity. If it seems too good to be true, trust your gut.

“We had a situation in Huntsville last year where there was a modeling agency, supposedly, in Greece that was calling students of a local school here and trying to get them to come over to Greece,” said Bo Williams with the task force. “We almost had a child go over there.”

They say it isn’t just runaway children who are targets. Know how to disengage from a situation.

“Trust it. Go with your gut and get your child away from the situation, even if it risks embarrassing yourself or whatever,” Williams said. “If you’re wrong it’s a momentary embarrassment. If you’re right then you’ve saved your child from something horrible.”

Report any potential abduction situation to police.

Click here to learn more about the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

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