CRIME BYTES: Traffickers exploiting social media to target victims
Offenders involved in human trafficking are routinely exploiting social media and the internet to target, entrap and control their victims, warns Europol director Rob Wainwright. The head of the European policing agency explained that adverts on social media sites such as Facebook that promised childcare or cleaning jobs were being used by organised crime groups to lure in vulnerable young women, who are then forced into prostitution or criminal activities.
According to the most recent human trafficking report published by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in September 2014, nearly 3,000 people (including over 600 children) were trafficked for slavery and sexual exploitation into the UK during 2013, an increase of 22% on the previous year. The NCA also highlights the internet as being one of the most significant drivers behind this increase, with traffickers using social media, online dating and job recruitment sites to target and entrap their victims.
Speaking at the Centre for Social Justice, Rob Wainwright noted that the use of modern technology is allowing offenders to remotely monitor and control an increasing number of victims at once, via web chat and webcam.
“In the past, the pimps and traffickers had to do that by physically visiting them. Now they can just do it at the click of a button and therefore control 50 victims much more easily and readily in virtual form. What that allows therefore is a sort of industrialisation of the problem. Single traffickers and pimps can control many more victims.”
Rob Wainwright – Europol
He adds that people trafficking is regarded by offenders as a “low-risk, high profit” activity, generating an estimated £100 billion per year for organised crime groups who are going about their business with little fear of any repercussions. He calls for a much greater level of trust, cooperation and information sharing between international law enforcement agencies to better tackle the problem.