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Law enforcement: Text scam not related to human trafficking

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 7:12 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Law enforcement say a strange text involving a photo of a woman appears to try to lure the recipient into a conversation is the latest phishing scheme designed to lure recipients to give away personal information.

“Scammers send out a text attempting to get a reply back which then shows the scammer that it is a legitimate working phone number, then they start trying to have a conversation with you and obtaining your personal information,” said LT. Whitney Mauck of the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office.

The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office said people should not respond to the message and should block the number. The same goes for any other strange texts from unknown numbers.

The message has not been linked to any human trafficking.

“In our county thus far we’ve not had any reports of any sex trafficking coming from that or anyone obtaining people’s locations,” said Lt. Mauck.

Instead, the scammers have tried to use the message to try to solicit nude photos from people to use for blackmail.

“It’s mainly just been messages being sent, pictures being sent back and forth. Once they retrieve your information, then they start the extortion process,” said Mauck.

New Creation is a non-profit store in Harrisonburg dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

They say trends online have highlighted similar texting scams as a way to identify someone’s location and lure them into trafficking but that they have seen no proof of these claims.

“These types of scams are very alarming and they can create anxiety and fear but that doesn’t always mean it’s linked to human trafficking it could be a different scam or a different situation that someone is trying to pull you into,” said Sabrina Dorman-Andrew, owner of New Creation.

Dorman-Andrew said one of the biggest misconceptions about human trafficking is that it mostly comes from strangers abducting people.

“The reality of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking is that the typical way is familial. So somebody in that family unit that is exploiting and trafficking an individual, actually 40% of sex trafficking happens through a family member,” she said.

An additional 39% of sex trafficking occurs through a non-family member with whom the eventual victim builds a relationship and most often involves a boyfriend or girlfriend, Dorman-Andrew added.

“In our city, the vast majority of people that are pulled into trafficking are pulled in by somebody who has built a relationship or has a relationship with the individual. Then they can focus on a vulnerability to exploit,” said Dorman-Andrew.

New Creation works with schools to teach students about human trafficking and safety practices. They highlight the importance for young women to have safe people in their lives who they can go to when a situation or relationship becomes uncomfortable.

Dorman-Andrew said there are a number of red flags in a relationship that could indicate someone is a trafficker.

“Someone who is trying to isolate you whether it’s a boyfriend or another relationship that is a huge red flag. Somebody making promises, so promises of a better life is a huge thing that trackers use to create this desire to come with them,” she said.

Dorman-Andrew said because of this the vast majority of runaway children in America are high red flags for human trafficking.

“Traffickers typically don’t kidnap a child, they would lure a child to leave willingly. For a runaway, it takes days sometimes for Amber Alerts to happen and people to know what’s going on versus a kidnapping where it happens immediately,” she said.

New Creation encourages people interested in learning more about human trafficking to complete free training on https://www.iamonwatch.org/.

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