Be careful online. Keep settings private. Don’t ever post pictures that give away your exact location, and never accept friend requests from strangers. Even if someone is a friend of a friend, it doesn’t mean your friend actually knows the person. Traffickers often learn all about victims’ families, where they live, and whatever else they can find out from social media, then use that information as a threat if the victims try to leave. A trafficker might say, “If you try to escape, I’ll get your little sister to take your place.” Remember that people can take screenshots of anything you post online, so even if you delete it, someone may still have your information and use it against you.
Be aware that traffickers hang out where the kids are—in malls, parks, and other public places. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If a stranger says they want to hire you for a music video or a modeling shoot, don’t go anywhere with them. If it’s a legitimate opportunity, there will be a reputable agency that you can research and visit, with a parent or guardian involved and accompanying you.
If you’re ever thinking of running away, please, PLEASE find a trusted adult you can talk to. If the first person you try can’t help, keep trying until you find someone who can. Teachers, guidance counselors, clergy, other relatives, and the parents of friends can all be helpful. No matter how bad it might be at home, it can be even worse on the streets. Within forty-eight hours of leaving home, one out of every three runaways is at high risk of being approached by a trafficker or recruiter. Traffickers are sometimes called street psychologists because they quickly figure out what a person is looking for—perhaps a father figure, a friendship, or a romantic relationship—and trick that person into believing they will fill that void.
If you’re ever in a possible trafficking situation, you can text HELP to 233733 (BE FREE), and you will either be connected to someone via text or given a phone number that you can call to talk to someone who can help you right away. The person you communicate with will wait for YOU to call THEM back in the future—so you don’t have to worry that they might call your phone—and they won’t contact law enforcement unless you (or someone with you) is in danger. And if you are in immediate danger, it’s best to call 911.