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Human traffickers turn to technology during the pandemic

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 5:41 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - With the help of technology, human trafficking can happen anywhere and cases of it have been reported in all 72 counties in Wisconsin according to the Milwaukee Human Trafficking Task Force.

It’s a crime without boundaries said Cat Jacoby with the Eau Claire based non-profit Fierce Freedom.

“It’s possible in any location,” Jacoby said. “In those rural areas because of access to technology, cell phones. A really big thing that people should be aware of because it is human trafficking awareness day is that nobody is really safe behind a screen.”

Despite people spending more time at home, the national Human Trafficking Hotline saw a 40% increase in crisis trafficking cases a month into the pandemic.

Kathy Hatem is with Enough is Enough, a group working to make the internet safe for everyone. She said it’s easier than ever for traffickers right now.

“Kids are spending more time than ever online,” Hatem said. “They are at home distance learning. They’re using the internet more than ever to socialize, and so that alone puts them at greater exposure for coming in counter with a trafficker on the internet.”

To help protect children while they are online, experts suggest talking early and often to your children about internet safety.

“Technology is a way of life that children are getting more accustomed to, so rather than say no technology at all--that just doesn’t work,” Jacoby said.

Jacoby recommends parents make use of tools like parental monitoring software. She said it’s important to include your kids in the discussion when deciding to use these resources, so they know you trust them, but may not trust those they could come in contact with when they use technology.

For more information about Internet safety, click HERE. For more resources on human trafficking, click HERE.

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