Police Respond After Kidnapping Tactic Hoax Goes Viral On TikTok

Even before the pandemic emerged, it was pretty easy to feel anxious about our lives. Whether we're concerned about our safety, the safety of our loved ones, or simply how we're going to pay our bills, we can often find that there's so shortage of potential hazards to worry about.

And as times change and our technologies evolve, those who would seek to do us harm have both seen the need and found the opportunity to become more sophisticated in how they operate. This is particularly true in the case of human trafficking, which the U.S. Department of Human Health Services estimates is responsible for between 600,000 to 800,000 disappearances every year.

But while it's understandable that people would be vigilant about such an alarming and difficult issue to pin down, that vigilance can sometimes lead us to treat speculation as a credible warning.

In late January, a TikTok user named @ice.lemon.water posted a video in which she shared concerns about the ties she saw on two car door handles while she was out shopping.

She said in her video that they didn't think too much of it until she saw the second one close to the first sighting, at which point she felt compelled to leave the area.

Although it's unclear where this was shot, similar warnings have apparently popped in Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas.

Whether the car door ties are zip ties, wire, or ribbons, these warnings suggest that they're put on car doors as a kidnapping tactic.

The idea behind these claims is that while someone is trying to untie the flourish, they are being distracted for long enough to allow kidnappers to set up the means to trap them and transport them away.

Such warnings often come with advice to get in the car, lock your doors, and drive somewhere else before untying the attachment.

Another video by a user who goes by @achunkyguy that provides a rundown of the rumor advises returning to a populated area and bringing people with you while you undo the tie.

But while this advice is clearly well-intentioned and it doesn't necessarily do any harm to take these precautions, there isn't any evidence to suggest its responding to an actual kidnapping tactic.

Although these warnings *sound* reasonable enough, they don't appear to reflect the reality of kidnapping patterns.

As The Kansas City Star reported, police in San Angelo, Texas and the Michigan State Police stated they had received no reports of such ties in any kidnapping case they've received.

This was confirmed by Celia Williamson — the director of the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute at the University of Toledo — and also seemed to be the case in Tuscon.

As Lt. Brian Oleksyk of the Michigan State Police said, "It’s essentially like an urban legend or a scare-lore. The whole idea of the intent is just to scare people."

Not only are human traffickers apparently not known to use this zip tie distraction but it's also considered rare for them to kidnap total strangers.

As Williamson said, "It’s not about stranger danger, it’s more about people befriending you and over time they get you into situations where you can be trafficked."

According to The Kansas City Star, Oleksyk agreed with this assessment, saying that such luring efforts usually happen over time online and when they don't, they typically involve contacts from a previous relationship or friends of friends.

The point is that in most cases, victims are lulled into a false sense of security over time before the trap is sprung.

h/t: The Kansas City Star

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