Human Trafficking and our online behaviour

Published on: 5th July 2022

What are the 3 signs of human trafficking activities online?

Human trafficking is a global crisis that has grown exponentially since digitisation where traffickers are now able to reach more people, have access to more of their information online for targeting purposes and are using the rise of social media as a public engagement tool. Some of the leading human trafficking activities that exist online include:

  • Opportunities that are too good to be true – if you see a job opportunity that offers a pay too good for the required skills, or where interviews are held in suspicious locations, do a background check on these to ensure the companies exist, have website with domains that match the name of the company and that the address for interview matches the ones on the official website.
  • Stranger Danger – Often, the simple skills we learn as children for our safety, are the same ones we need to apply when we are adults. If you receive a message from a stranger professing their love and care for you ‘out of the blue’, or asking a lot of personal questions, avoid oversharing and be clear on intentions, or immediately block.
  • On the perspective identifying potential victims online, research indicates that although easier to track than labour trafficking, determining instances of sex trafficking online poses complications. In particular, distinctions between advertisements of trafficking victims as opposed to sex workers who do not fall within the legal definitions of trafficking can be limited and blurred. However adult content of underage people is often a good indicator and should be reported to authorities.

Why are people trafficked?

The shocking global demands for cheap labour and for commercialised sex have unfortunately led to profitable opportunities for traffickers to exploit people, and as you would imagine – the younger generation is more appealing here.  In Africa, it is also common for people to be trafficked for their body parts which are said to be used for rituals.

How are people trafficked?

Traffickers often lure, target and recruit their victims by appearing to offer help, use violence, fraudulent employment agencies, and fake promises of education and job opportunities to trick, coerce and deceive their victims into captivity. According to the United Nations, these established networks or individuals behind this lucrative crime take advantage of people who are vulnerable, desperate or simply seeking a better life.

How can we be safer online?

Social media and other digital offerings have made engaging and seeking opportunities so much easier for people, but unfortunately there are pitfalls to manoeuvring online and you can land on the wrong platform and share your information with the wrong people, and human trafficking is a great example here. However, with most online threats, even beyond human trafficking, criminals use what has been noted as the most valuable commodity – your data (information), and in this instance, personal information. Some key tips on keeping safe online include:

  • Keep your personal information private

A lot of people fall victim to various crimes because they share personal information publicly which can make them fall victim to various forms of crimes, including human trafficking. For example – when you have a complaint against your service provider and want to address it on social media or other public platforms such as consumer forums, beware not to share personal details such as your full names, address mobile number, ID etc, as these make it easier for online predators to target you. Rather use the direct message option or more private methods such as email and calls.

  • Use social media wisely

As human beings we are social beings, so it common to find yourself engaging with strangers or forging new relationship on platforms such as online dating and gaming etc. However, these platforms are often easy targets for traffickers. Don’t trust easily and be suspicious of strangers who offer you help and opportunities online. Check your privacy and location settings, and avoid checking in to places, especially while you are there as this can make you easy to find.

  • Use your phone to stay safe

Always have someone close to you know where you are when travelling or meeting new people. There are many apps that do this for friends and family, and even WhatsApp live location can be a great tool to keep your friends and family in the know of your whereabouts.

  • Beware of leading online tactics that are used by traffickers

Traffickers always use new methods, target new areas and come up with new solutions to recruit victims. As such, it is important for people to keep up to date with these through news, cybersecurity providers who drive consumer education around this, or leading organisations such as the United Nations who often report on new trends etc.