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3 Ways to Teach Your Kids Internet Safety

3 Ways to Teach Your Kids Internet Safety

Have you ever received a Facebook friend request from someone that you don’t know? Many can answer yes to that question, including our children.

Many traffickers spend time looking for victims on the internet, especially here in America. It often looks like a boy reaching out to a girl on social media and developing an online relationship. Over time, they become “boyfriend and girlfriend.” In extreme cases, the “boyfriend” starts grooming the girl and eventually pulls her into trafficking.

One of the greatest things we can do for our children is help them know how to prevent this from happening. Communication, knowledge, and healthy alternatives are three ways that we can help our children understand the world of trafficking on their level.

1. Developing Communication and Trust

One of the greatest tools in keeping your kids safe from unwanted attention is communicating with them about the issue. For example, you could start by asking them if they have ever gotten a request from someone on social media that they don’t know. Give them the chance to talk about their experience and why they think that person tried to reach out to them. In a non-threatening or accusing way, you can teach them to be aware that you never know who really is on the other side of the screen.

Giving your child the chance to speak up about their experience on social media can help you gauge what you need to help them know what to look for and avoid. Don’t be afraid to be clear and honest with your children about what you feel comfortable with and what you don’t feel comfortable with on the internet.

2. Knowledge is Power

How you explain the dangers of the internet is often done on a case by case basis for each child. Helping them understand how “bad guys” and predators misuse the internet can help them avoid danger. Help your children understand that this is not an issue that just happens far away in a different country, but that it happens here in the U.S. as well. Social media is a part of our daily lives, so helping our children be aware that these “bad buys” target them is important. If they understand the dangers, they will be empowered to know how to communicate in the world around them in the safest way.

Facts to Be Aware Of

The majority of victims in the U.S. are recruited into trafficking by someone they know or trust, or by new “boyfriends.” The traffickers will often pose as a mentor as they work on recruiting the child. Recruitment is the first stage of trafficking. Here are some signs that you can look for in this first phase:

  1. Older adult showing interest in child, asking questions about their life, family, hopes, dreams
  2. Excessive flattery
  3. Buying gifts
  4. Romantic interest, often by someone older

Read more about the stages of trafficking in the post Protecting Our Children from Sex Trafficking

3. Healthy Alternatives

With media being so saturated with information and content, we may just simply need to teach our children how to use social media for good.

Children knowing that their parents are fighting against trafficking can motivate them to learn about it and take a stand against it. It is important to remember that this information can be tailored to your children’s specific needs and level of understanding.

Once our children understand what dangers are out there, they will often be able to figure out how to use social media safely with a little bit of direction from parents. It is not always necessary to explain everything that we know about the dangers out there, but it is necessary to keep open communication. Tim Ballard explained, “I think, in the world of child pornography and sexual abuse of children, I don’t want to be graphic with the kids at all, even with my teenage kids. I kind of let them just figure it out and let their brain stop them where they should be stopped, because the brain will do that.”

Opening up communication about the subject can be a good starting point, and as your children ask questions you can be prepared to answer them and help them with different situations. Taking steps like the ones outlined above can prevent many dangerous situations on the internet. Enabling our children to prevent danger in their own way will strengthen the fight against trafficking.


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For further information on this subject, read 3 Tech Setting You Need to Protect Your Kids Online.

Technology settings to keep kids safe

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3 Ways O.U.R. Fights Trafficking in the U.S.

3 Ways O.U.R. Fights Trafficking in the U.S.

Operation Underground Railroad has been growing around the world – we now have aftercare partners in 15 countries and our O.U.R. jump team has grown significantly in SE Asia. With the recent damage from natural disasters, we have gathered support to help our partner aftercare homes in the various affected countries. We have assisted in over 40 operations this past year.

But what does O.U.R. do in the United States?

1. Help train law enforcement teams on software to fight trafficking online

One of the biggest problems in the fight against trafficking is that the internet provides a wide, empty space for traffickers to trade child pornography. Our goal is to not make it so easy.

Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces

The different Internet Crimes Against Children teams around the nation are fighting these crimes against children online. Operation Underground Railroad has various tools and resources to help train law enforcement officers and increase their capabilities of finding predators online. (ICAC is organized by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.)

Just this past quarter, our collaboration with Utah’s ICAC team was very successful. This task force was able to initiate 199 more investigations online, with 100 of those cases being from CyberTipline referrals.

Training law enforcement on software capabilities has an exponential effect – Utah’s ICAC was able to perform over 11 trainings and support 97 cases outside of their own task force.

The Takedown of Massage Parlors

In addition, O.U.R. was able to assist the St. George Police Department earlier this year in taking down several massage parlors that were providing illegal services to many customers.

When SPGD reached out, O.U.R. was able to provide the police force with resources and translation services for the foreign national victims and witnesses. This collaboration was a success, and set the tone for future successful public-private partnerships.

Online Predators

As told in one of our previous posts, when Tim Ballard offered tools to the Chief of Police in a small California city, the chief declined, saying  he didn’t think they had that problem there.

Ballard made him a deal. “Give us two hours,” he said.

In just 15 minutes, Ballard and his team identified over 60 predators seeking children as young as 9 years old. In two months they were able to find and arrest 40 of those predators.

We are grateful for the many opportunities we have to successfully collaborate with police task forces around the nation. These task forces are well-trained and work hard to end child trafficking, and we are grateful for the resources they provide for many survivors.

2. Support Programs like the K9 Program

O.U.R. assists U.S. law enforcement depending on the needs of different departments across the nation, and supporting the Canine Law Enforcement Program is one of the ways we are able to do so.

The Canine Law Enforcement Program trains dogs for 4-5 months to recognize the scent of hidden electronic storage devices (i.e. thumb drives, SD cards) to help police find devices containing child pornography more efficiently in investigations.

Recently, a dog named “Reptar” was purchased with grant money to assist law enforcement in Columbus, Ohio. Reptar will be lent to other law enforcement teams as needed.

We also have a partnership with doTERRA’s Healing Hands Foundation, who purchased two of these dogs just a few months ago.

Cinnamon Bark, named after one of doTERRA’s oils

They are currently training to go to law enforcement teams in LA and Florida. These dogs are valuable resources because they can find these storage devices even in car seats and couch cushions, where it may take a human much longer to find.

3. Aftercare: Red Light Outreach

One of the most important steps in O.U.R.’s rescue process is aftercare. “There is no rescue without healing,” Tim Ballard says. One of the ways we are able to assist with this in the U.S. is through finding, vetting and partnering with aftercare homes for survivors to reside once they are rescued. It is important that these homes have the resources to support the healing process of survivors, so that they can go on to make livable incomes and stay out of traffickers’ sight.

Another way that O.U.R. is able to assist is through Red Light Outreach. There are groups in larger cities that bring hygiene kits and trafficking hotline cards to those who are on the streets and are most vulnerable. Through this we are able to give resources and hope to those on the streets in these cities.

Our partnership with doTERRA has also benefitted our survivors. One of doTERRA’s Certified Pure Therapeutic-Grade oils, the “Hope” oil, has O.U.R.’s logo on it. If you peel the label back, the human trafficking hotline number is provided. These oil bottles are distributed around the world to young adults to lead them to good resources.

We are grateful for the many successful collaborations we have been able to be a part of domestically. In 2016, we were able to provide some training to Homeland Security that helped them successfully arrest a man who was a child porn distributor. Even one arrest like this can help prevent at least 100 – 200 children from being abused in the future.


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Learn about 3 places you might see trafficking, and what you can do about it here.

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3 Ways Kids are Trafficked in America

3 Ways Kids are Trafficked in America

Eradicate: to destroy completely; put an end to.

O.U.R.’s mission: to eradicate trafficking.

2 million children are trafficked for sex worldwide. 250,000 of those children live here in the United States. 10,000 of those children are smuggled into America every year.

How much is 250,000? The 2017 Super Bowl was held in the NRG Stadium, holding just over 70,000 people. Filling that stadium three times would still not represent all of the children being trafficked in America today.

To fully understand what we are fighting against, communities need to know how child trafficking is happening in America. Three of the ways children are trafficked in America are: Internet luring, sparse parental supervision, and smuggling.

The world of sex trafficking is difficult to comprehend, but so vitally important to be aware of. If we are not aware of these children and are not looking, then we certainly will not find them. Part of O.U.R.’s mission is to help the public become aware of this problem and to let them know that there are people fighting for these children.

Here is some information that will help you understand a small part of the world of trafficking.

1. Internet Luring

Tim Ballard has previously posed the question to parents, “Would you let your kids go bar hopping at night?”

With the obvious answer being no, he followed up with explaining that without the proper education and protection, letting kids run free on social media can be comparable to bar hopping. Hundreds of thousands of traffickers are looking for children and trying to figure out how to lure them out through the internet. Traffickers will groom children over the internet, targeting those with lower self esteem and eventually moving on to meeting in person.

Related: 3 Tech Settings You Need to Protect Your Kids Online

This may be difficult to believe if you are not aware of this problem and have never seen evidence of this kind of activity. You are not alone.

When Tim Ballard offered tools to the Chief of Police in a small California city, he declined, saying he didn’t think they had that problem there.

Tim made him a deal. “Give us two hours,” he said.

In 15 minutes, they identified over 60 predators seeking children as young as 9 years old. In two months they were able to find and arrest 40 of those predators.

It is happening here in America.

Related: 3 Places you Might See Trafficking, and What to Do About It

A way to combat this problem is through education and communication. Tim Ballard suggests that you educate yourself by doing a “deep dive into what all of these social media platforms can actually give your child access to, and then educate that child.” Explain to them what they should and should not do to protect themselves. It is important not to scare them, but to allow them to have enough education about the subject so they can understand the threat. If there are 2 million children being trafficked worldwide, there is an obvious demand.

Predators will groom children through the internet, seeking after the most vulnerable. Those who seem to have low self esteem or lack of friends may be looking for attention and they may get it from a trafficker. Ask your kids if they have ever received a request from someone that they don’t know- it’s a very common thing. A predator could easily be posing as an attractive man, but you do not know who really is behind the screen. They then begin the stages of trafficking. You can learn about those in the blog post: Protecting our Children From Sex Trafficking.

2. Sparse Parental Supervision

In foreign countries, traffickers will sometimes lure young girls into their industry by offering them a spot in a modeling school. The parents, often in poverty, agree that it would put their child in a better place than where they are at home. Unfortunately, these “modeling” opportunities end up pushing these young girls into the trafficking industry.

In America, there are similar cases where victims are in “modeling” school, but they can still go home at night. However, they are threatened with their family being killed if they tell anyone about their “clients” or what is really going on at the modeling school. This way, the traffickers can control them even when they are at home. It is important to learn the signs of victims of trafficking so that you can help identify these children in your community.

In addition, trafficking in the U.S. looks more like “my boyfriend is my pimp” rather than kids living in a trailer down the street from a brothel. Instead of brothels, these kids are exploited in hotels. Hotels are the replacement for brothels in the U.S.

A common reason for a minor to be picked up by a pimp is if they don’t have anyone taking care of them or if they decide to run away from home. Unfortunately, traffickers focus on victims that would be most vulnerable, such as in rehab facilities, malls, homeless shelters, etc.

According to The Mom’s View, it is important to show that parents are active in their children’s lives. They say that a predator’s greatest fear is getting caught, so if the predators knows that the parent is attentive, they will steer clear.

3. Smuggled In

Out of the 250,000 estimated children in America being exploited for sex, 10,000 of them are smuggled in each year from other countries. Tim Ballard described how the traffickers know the borders and are able to find ways to smuggle these kids in. When these kids come to America, they are stuck with their captors because they have nowhere else to turn.

Related: My Life as a Sex Slave

The Polaris Project pointed out that traffickers often understand the vulnerabilities of their victims because they make sure to seek victims that share their ethnic or cultural background. This principle is also true with Americans, which is why it is important to be aware how the traffickers find these kids. With Americans, it is mostly online. Americans are the number one consumer and producer of child porn in the world. This is both a national and international Problem because often Americans will travel out of the country to exploit young children in other countries. If these predators hear of opportunities in other countries, they will respond to the ad online and begin to travel over there. The police get them in the airport on the way out.

The point is, this very much a national and international problem. The traffickers that exist in all over the world capitalize on the American demand for these children.

There is hope, however.

The hope is you. With so many supporters of O.U.R. and its cause, it is possible to eradicate child sex trafficking. Spreading awareness, learning the signs, community campaigns, strengthening the laws – these are just a few of the things being done to help stop this issue.

It is important to remember that these problems can be dealt with through clear communication with your children and safety measures online.

To quote the O.U.R. Promise,

To the children                                                                                                                                                                       who we pray for daily, we say:                                                                                                                                            Your long night is coming to an end.                                                                                                                                 Hold on. We are on our way.

And to those captors and perpetrators,
even you monsters who dare offend God’s
precious children, we declare to you: 

Be afraid. We are coming for you.


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Technology, if used correctly, can help us in the fight against trafficking. Learn about an app that allows the public to help in the fight, a new algorithm, and what Ashton Kutcher’s foundation Thorn is doing here.

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3 Ways Technology is Fighting Trafficking

3 Ways Technology is Fighting Trafficking

O.U.R. is grateful for all of the organizations and community members that are fighting to end human trafficking. Lately, there have been some amazing breakthroughs in technology that are helping to rescue children from trafficking situations.

It is always fascinating to see how people use their talents to come up with new ways to combat this issue. Everyone has their own talents and circles of influence that they can use for good.

1. The TraffickCam App

First created in 2015 by the Exchange Initiative and researchers at Washington University, TraffickCam is an app that enables travelers to easily join the fight against child trafficking.

When you are staying in a hotel anywhere in the world, you can take pictures of your room before you unpack and upload them through this app. The app then cycles through these photos using technology to match it with pictures related to trafficking crimes, such as ads on sites like backpage.com or evidence that the local police departments have. Often traffickers will use photos of their victims posed in hotel rooms for online sex ads, but it is difficult to know where they are by just that single picture.

For example, the app’s technology will match the carpet print and lampshade to an online sex ad with the same carpet print and lampshade in the picture. This will create a database that can be shared among many law enforcement agencies and aid in investigations. TraffickCam also allows the general public to join the fight against trafficking as they upload pictures from wherever they are in the world.

TraffickCam screenshot TraffickCam screenshot

The app protects privacy rejecting any photos that have people in it. It also can protect against fraud by matching the GPS location of the picture with the hotel you claim to be at to ensure accuracy. Also make sure you do not have any personal belongings in the picture.

TraffickCam’s Success

So far, the app has received 1.5 million pictures from 145,000 hotels. However, most of these photos have been automatically scraped from travel websites such as Expedia and TripAdvisor. With the public’s help, this group will be able to reach more hotels that traffickers are using and locate victims more quickly.

With over 250,000 child victims of trafficking in the U.S. alone, TraffickCam has potential to help find these children faster. Although the app and database have received a lot of photos from the internet, the photos that users take are more similar to the photos that traffickers take and use in ads. For more information and FAQs, visit this link. It is available on iOS and Android.

Related: 3 Places You Might See Trafficking, and What To Do About It

2. New Algorithms to Find Sex Buyers on Sites like Backpage.com

Recently UC Berkeley PhD student Rebecca Portnoff discovered two algorithms to flip through online sex ads and uncover trafficking rings.

Bitcoin algorithm for backpage(img source: dailycal.org)
Something interesting about online sex ads that Portnoff pointed out is that there is a distinct difference between sex ads that are consensual and those that are forced by traffickers. She implemented this principle into her algorithms through stylometry, or the study of writing styles. She hopes, through her algorithm, she will be able to gather ads of the same writing style and point them to the same individual – perhaps a trafficker.

Her other algorithm focuses on ads connected to the same bitcoin account. In other words, the algorithm can find where many different advertisements were purchased by the same bitcoin wallet. They have already found a bitcoin account that spent $150,000 on 5,000 different sex ads on backpage.com. To make it even more suspicious, these purchased ads were for all for young women living in the same area.

Portnoff’s research team along with these algorithms have a lot of potential to find suspicious activity and uncover trafficking rings. With what they have done already, they show a lot of promise and hope for trafficking victims. Read the full story here

3. Project Vic: From Ashton Kutcher’s Foundation, Thorn

In the past, when law enforcement agencies would receive child abuse images they would sift through it independently. Until now, there was no universal way to communicate between law enforcement which children had already been identified or found. According to Thorn’s website, Project Vic is a collaborative project between the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and law enforcement around the world.

How can they do this? By creating a database of image hashes, a universal code, Project Vic will be able to significantly reduce the time that law enforcement spends on the same child abuse content. In turn, this will significantly increase the time spent on new content containing evidence of unidentified victims. This is a new and innovative way to connect those that are all fighting against child trafficking and abuse.

This project is just the beginning of what Thorn is working on. There are descriptions of more projects they are working on here.

Everyone Can Do Something

It’s inspiring to see all of the ways that people are developing technology to fight against child exploitation. If used correctly, technology can be a great tool in this fight. These are just three of the ways that technology is used for good, but there are many more!

How are you using your talents to join the fight? Everyone can do something.


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With technology being so prevalent in our kids’ lives, it’s important to take the extra step to keep them and their private information safe. These 3 simple setting changes will make a different in limiting strangers’ access to your children’s information. Read more here.

Technology settings to keep kids safe

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3 Tech Settings You Need to Protect Your Kids Online

3 Tech Settings You Need to Protect Your Kids Online

With technology being so prevalent in our kids’ lives, it is important to take the extra step to keep them and their private information safe. These 3 simple setting changes will make a difference in limiting strangers’ access to your children’s information.

1. Location Settings

The following examples can be applied to other social media platforms (i.e. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on your phone in addition to Snapchat, which is explained below.

Snapchat’s Snap Maps

Snapchat’s latest update includes something called Snap Maps. Snap Maps allow you to click on other people’s pictures and see exactly where they are on a map. You can even zoom in close enough to see the street address that they are located at. You can opt-out of Snap Maps by choosing “Ghost Mode.”

How to:

  • When Snapchat first takes you on a tutorial of Snap Maps, it will give you the option of who to share your location with. By choosing “Only Me,” Ghost Mode will turn on and no one will be able to see your location.

  • If you have already gone through the tutorial and want to change your settings to Ghost Mode, go back to the Snap Maps screen and find the setting button in the right corner. You can change who can see your location there to “Only Me.”

You turn off location services all together for Snapchat in your phone’s privacy settings and choose, “Never share.”  Other apps on your phone, such as Facebook and Instagram, also can see your location. You can choose which apps to opt out of location sharing services in your phone’s privacy settings. The instructions below are for iPhone users. (Android)

Steps:

  1. Under settings, find the Snapchat app

2. Go to “Location” and choose “Never”

2. Google SafeSearch

You can block explicit content from being searched on the internet through Google SafeSearch. Google’s website explains, “SafeSearch can help you block inappropriate or explicit images from your Google Search results. The SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most violent and adult content.”

How to:

  • Go to google.com/preferences. At the top of the list, you can check the box to turn on SafeSearch.
  • Lock SafeSearch mode by pressing the link next to the box you just clicked, “Lock SafeSearch.” This will add a picture of colored balls to the top of each search page. This can help you know if SafeSearch is on and locked. If you do not see colored balls on the search engine pages, it is not locked. To unlock SafeSearch, you will need to log in to your Google (Gmail) account.

3. Phone “Restrictions”: iPhone Users

On the iPhone, you can turn on restrictions that require a separate password to lock and unlock. These restrictions include but are not limited to controlling explicit content, disabling the ability to install or delete apps, and disabling screen recording on game apps. This may be useful if you have a safety app installed that you do not want deleted, or if you want to make sure that location services are never turned on. All of these settings are customizable, so you are able to choose which ones are most important to you.

How to:

  • Go to Settings
  • General
  • Restrictions
  • Press Enable Restrictions
  • Make a unique password
  • Write it down so you don’t forget
  • Choose which Restrictions to enable

Communication with your children is the key to trust. It is important for them to understand that steps like these are acts of prevention so that they don’t think it is a limitation, but rather a protection. Media can be used in positive ways, we just need to be making sure that our kids’ private information is protected.


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Have you listened to the Slave Stealer Podcast? In this episode, Slave Stealer host Mark Mabry invites his 12-year-old son on the show to help him learn what trafficking is in an appropriate way for his age. Go to the blog post here.

talking to kids about human trafficking

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3 Places You Might See Trafficking, and What To Do About It

3 Places You Might See Trafficking, and What To Do About It

Three places that community members have spotted child trafficking situations include gas stations, hotels, and Facebook. Whether you have ever suspected a trafficking situation or not, it is important to be informed and prepared for what to do if you encounter it. There are many resources available to learn where trafficking happens, what the signs are and how to recognize them, how to report the tip, and how much information is necessary to report.

How to Identify Signs of a Trafficked Child

Although these are common places where trafficking occurs, the physical and behavioral signs and indicators can be recognized in other places as well. There are many resources that are great educators on the signs and indicators of a child being trafficked. We have listed some below.

Behavioral Signs (information found on missingkids.org)

  • Increased online activity
  • Child associates with new groups of online friends/older friends
  • Child avoids answering questions or lets others speak for him or her
  • Child appears frightened or resistant to law enforcement
  • Child lies about his or her age and identity
  • Child looks to others before answering questions
  • Child does not ask for help, does not self-identify as a victim
  • Child seems coached in talking to law enforcement

Physical Signs

  • Child has no identification (or ID is held by another person)
  • Child has large amounts of cash or pre-paid credit cards
  • Multiple children with unrelated adults
  • Child has sexual paraphernalia (such as bulk condoms or lubrication)
  • Evidence of travel (child is living out of suitcases, at motels, or in a car)
  • Child has a name or symbol tattooed or branded, child is reluctant to explain the tattoo, child’s tattoo matches other children’s tattoos
  • Child references traveling to other cities or states, may lack knowledge of their travel plans or current location
  • Child has hotel keys, hotel receipts or other items from hotel/motel
  • Presence of an overly controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or older female
  • Children recovered or picked up at hotels, truck stops, or strip clubs
  • Child has slips of paper with contact info and dollar amounts
  • Child has items or an appearance that does not fit his or her current situation (e.g., a homeless or runaway child who has money, electronics, new clothes or shoes, and who has his or her hair or nails done)
  • Child references online classified ads or escort websites
  • Child references traveling job opportunities (including modeling, singing and/or dancing in a music group or magazine sales crews)
  • Child has multiple cell phones and/or electronic devices
  • Child has unaddressed medical issues or who goes to the ER or clinic alone, or with an unrelated female

Other resources that discuss the signs of trafficking include but are not limited to:

What To Do 

There are many steps you can take to be prepared if you witness or suspect any of these situations. You can always use the resources available to you as a community member, victim, or family member. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics, the number one type of callers on the hotline are community members. It is important that the community is aware of these potential situations and is willing to act when necessary. The following list explains steps you can take to be informed and prepared if you do see something suspicious:

  1. Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in your phone. 1-888-373-7888.
  2. If you suspect trafficking through something you saw on Facebook, they have a page dedicated to directing you to the correct resources and helping you handle the situation. Visit the page here.
  3. Text BeFree to 233733 to use the Polaris textline. This can be used to report trafficking tips and talk with someone one-on-one. The textline is open from 3-11pm EST.
  4. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. You can anonymously report a tip. 1-888-373-7888.
  5. Email the National Human Trafficking Hotline help@humantraffickinghotline.org.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is one of the best resources to report trafficking tips, ask for help, get involved, get more information, and access crisis assistance. In any case, you only have to share as much information as you are comfortable providing. You can always report anonymously, and you do not have to share any identifying details about yourself if you do not wish to. If you do choose to share, none of your personal information will ever be shared without explicit permission, unless required by law. Visit the hotline’s FAQ page here to learn more about the process.

All information is confidential, but the National Hotline will inform the authorities if there is child abuse or other danger involved that requires them to do so. Each tip is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Every member in the community is essential to keeping our kids safe. By being informed of the signs and indicators of trafficked and abused children, we can utilize the resources around us to continue fighting against modern-day slavery.


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The three phases of trafficking are recruitment, grooming, and seasoning. Learn more about how to protect our children from sex trafficking in this blog post. 

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