Recently, we have received many inquiries questioning the validity of various conspiracy theories related to child trafficking. Unfortunately, many of these theories are unsubstantiated and can distract from the fight against minor sex trafficking. We have observed a mass spread of misinformation, which is actually a threat to our country’s sexually exploited children.
The spread of misinformation can be hurtful to the anti-trafficking movement. Sometimes these stories are spread by well-meaning people who are truly concerned, but other times they are being put forward by organizations and individuals with separate agendas. Creating unnecessary sensationalism distributes misinformation and detracts from the real issue of sex trafficking.
Below are some of the misinformation/conspiracy theories that are currently circulating. Please contact us if you have any questions about any of information.
White Passenger Vans
Misinformation: White passenger vans or commercial vans with external locks are a sign of trafficking.
Reality: Traffickers drive all kinds of vehicles. There is no evidence that they favor white vans or that law enforcement has information on specific trafficking cases in which the use of white vans was integral to the crime. If you see or have personal knowledge of a missing person who was last seen getting into a white van, you should share with police or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. But in general white vans are not a sign that trafficking is occurring.
High Priced Online Items
Misinformation: Items sold on websites like Etsy and Amazon that appear higher priced than they should be are a sign that what is really being sold is a trafficked person.
Reality: Traffickers do sometimes launder money through sale or purchase of items that would go for far less on the open market. However, we have not heard of a particular situation in which a person was sold on line in this way, nor has law enforcement agencies suggested that this is happening on these sites.
Cabal of Politicians and a Pizza Restaurant
Misinformation: A cabal run by Hillary Clinton and other political operatives run a human trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant – aka Pizzagate.
Reality: There is no evidence of any kind related to these allegations. The restaurant in question does not have a basement. There was, however, a violent incident in which a man who believed these stories showed up at the restaurant heavily armed. He has since apologized and is serving time.
Trafficking Kids in Overpriced Cabinets
Misinformation: Online furniture retailer, Wayfair, is running a child trafficking ring that involves naming pieces of furniture with the actual names of the children for sale and listing them on the site at price points that make it clear there is far more than furniture for sale.
Reality: This rumor has been investigated and thoroughly debunked. It is believed that this rumor began as part of the QAnon conspiracy.
God the Mother
Misinformation: A religious organization called God the Mother is sex trafficking people around the country.
Reality: God the Mother is part of the World Mission Society Church of God and although some have described the group as being cult-like, with one person who sued them reporting that she was coerced into working, we have not heard of any situations of sex trafficking related to this group. We have, however, heard from people who have been approached by members or supposed members of this organization, presumably to talk to them about their beliefs and invite them to attend church events. If you are in a situation like this with any organization and are uncomfortable with being approached we encourage you to reach out to someone you trust for support and take a look at the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s safety planning tips.
Zip Ties and Marked Windows
Misinformation: Traffickers use zip-ties or mark vehicles as a way to target or abduct their victims.
Reality: Rumors about the use of zip ties or marking of vehicles by traffickers have been proven to be false. One of the most pervasive myths about human trafficking is that it always-or often-involves kidnapping or other wise physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most human traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor. What we have seen through work over the years is that many survivors have actually been trafficked by people they know-romantic partners, family members, acquaintances, etc.
Text Messages About Unclaimed Packages
Misinformation: Text messages with links to claim unclaimed packages are part of a scheme by sex traffickers to gain information to find and recruit or kidnap potential victims.
Reality: These text messages may be part of a “smishing” (SMS phishing) scam and there is no evidence that they are connected to sex trafficking.
Polaris holds the largest known data set on human trafficking in North America, which grew out of more than a decade of operating the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. For more information visit www.polarisproject.org
If you would like Rivers of Justice to speak to your group or organization about the reality of child trafficking and what it looks like, we would be happy to do this using Zoom or an in person presentation using social distancing. You can contact us on our website and someone will get back with you to schedule a date. Always feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.