Resources for keeping yourself
safe from exploitation
Predators and traffickers often gain access to information, build trust and manipulate to exploit others - both adults and youth. Social media and gaming platforms can be especially dangerous if you aren't careful.
Human Trafficking Safety
Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will. It doesn't need to involve kidnapping or immigration.
One of the biggest ways traffickers are exploiting others, especially youth, is by building trust and grooming through the use of online social media and gaming platforms. It happens slowly, over time, and often doesn't seem wrong at the start.
See how popular apps can be used and abused
Shared Hope International is a nonprofit organization located in Vancouver, Washington that works to prevent sex trafficking. We are not affiliated with or responsible for any Shared Hope content; we are "sharing hope" with their informative video. Learn more at sharedhope.org.
Predators and human traffickers can gain access to victims, especially vulnerable youth, online because people are not always aware of how dangerous online environments can be or how to keep themselves safe.
While the internet is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, predators often take advantage of this and actively stalk online meeting places such as chat rooms and social media sites to lure their victims.
Here are some simple steps you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones against exploitation:
1. Set strict privacy settings
If your social media accounts are public then anyone can see your photos, posts, and other information. Predators and traffickers can and do use this information to reach out to, recruit, and groom victims. Consider setting your accounts to 'private' and turn off location sharing on posts.
2. Beware of strange friend requests
Only accept friend or follow requests from people you know, even if you have friends in common. Traffickers utilize social media to 'chat' and slowly work to build trust with the potential victim.
3. Don't overshare
Remember that everything you put online - photos, texts, etc. - is in the public domain. You no longer have total control over how it is being seen or shared. Traffickers can use your photos and personal details to help them blackmail, contact, groom, or otherwise recruit and monitor victims. Never share personal information, such as your phone number, address, or your live location online.
4. Beware of advertisements that seem 'too good to be true'
Traffickers often use catchy language in job advertisements online, promising high wages for simple work or a change to make it big in a difficult industry such as a chance to become a model. Traffickers will often be vague about the company and their credentials, details, or terms of your employment. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
5. Flag it, don't share it!
Stay vigilant in the online sphere and report suspicious activity to the authorities. Don't hesitate to unfriend, block or report someone who is harassing you or talking to you in a way you don't like. Click on the links to learn how to block accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and SnapChat.
6. Know the warning signs of trafficking
Knowing what to look for and being aware of the warning signs of trafficking can help you identify when you or a loved one is at risk of being 'groomed' or recruited online. Check out our warning signs and risks page to learn more.
7. Get help or sound the alarm
If you suspect human trafficking or exploitation, our REACH Center 24 hour helpline is available for support at 518.943.4482. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1.888.373.7888 or texting 233733
Tips for Parents - Monitoring Kids Online
We know it can be a challenge to keep up with today's ever-changing technology. With all the hustle and bustle of everyday parenting, work, soccer practice, cheerleading, and more, we know the safety of your children always remains your first and highest priority - but where do you start? From monitoring activity, to restricting content, we've compiled a list of tips that can help you keep your children safe.
1. Start early
Don't be afraid to get an early start on having conversations about internet safety. Ideally, have conversations when your child is first starting to use internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even gaming consoles. This gives the opportunity to be open, build trust, and instill in them that rules in place are to protect them, not to be a buzzkill and ruin their fun.
2. Keep the conversation going
Conversations about online safety aren't a one-and-done topic. Keep the conversation going to establish open communication and reinforce safe behaviors. Discuss with them safe social media practices, the dangers of online conversations with someone they don't know (or only think they know), and why sharing too much personal information can be dangerous. Sharing their location, schedule, addresses, or even the name of their school all gives predators access to manipulate or otherwise endanger them.
3. Use in shared spaces
When possible, keep device usage limited to shared living spaces where you can better monitor what they're viewing or doing online. Make it a point to stay involved, and don't forget to check their browsing history regularly.
4. Know what apps are being used
Establish guidelines about checking in with you before downloading new apps. Make sure you get an explanation of any new apps or games they want and discuss how to safely use them.
5. Check privacy settings and devices regularly
Routinely check on app settings for any new changes from app updates to ensure privacy settings are secure. Set yourself a calendar reminder and pay close attention to video games, social media, and apps for music, pictures, connecting, or sharing.
Parental controls are software and tools that allow parents and caregivers to set the controls on a child's internet use. Although these controls are not entirely foolproof, they can act as a great line of defense against internet predators.
1. Guard their devices
Parental control options on each of your child's devices (yes, each must be done individually) is a great step in limiting access to sites, apps, and information that is not suitable or potentially dangerous for your child. Protect Young Eyes provides instructional guides to set up parental controls for over 20 popular devices.
2. Guard your router/network signal
Your router is the middleman between your modem and your internet-connected devices. Placing parental controls on your router can help block inappropriate content for any device on the network. Since many devices are mobile, this method won't protect when the device connects to different networks outside the home, but can still be an additional resource.
3. Understand and monitor social media
Social media is an integral part of our children and teenagers' livelihood. It is important for parents to not only understand the various platforms and how they work, but to talk to your kids about being smart when using social media. For details on the apps your child is using, check out the apps themselves. For example, take a look at Instagram's Tips for Parents.
Learn more about human trafficking and exploitation.
It's not always just in big cities, immigrants, or kidnappings. Exploitation can and does happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality - even if you've never left your home town.
How to report a tip or get help
24hr Support Helpline
Call our REACH Center helpline anytime, 24 hours a day at 518.943.4482. Trained staff provide crisis counseling and support services.
Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line
The HSI Tip Line is available 24/7 to submit anonymous tips for suspected human trafficking.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Call 1.888.373.7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733) to report suspected human trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.