Research conducted by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows how victims are being targeted and recruited via social media and online dating platforms, where personal information and details of people’s locations are readily available.
Sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation are taking place virtually and photos and videos sold further on different platforms to customers worldwide, resulting in even more money for the traffickers at no additional cost.
This week, experts from around 100 countries met online and in Vienna, Austria, to discuss strategies to combat this phenomenon and make the best use of technology to prevent human trafficking and investigate cases of this crime.
The discussion formed part of the annual intergovernmental Working Group of Trafficking in Persons and centres around an in-depth background paper on this topic produced by UNODC’s Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section.
Sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation are taking place virtually, by Unsplash/Priscilla du Preez
“Traffickers are quick to adapt their business model to suit their needs and increase their profits, so of course they follow online trends,” explains Tiphanie Crittin, a UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer.
Dark web exploitation
“Traffickers are currently using technology to profile, recruit, control and exploit their victims as well as using the Internet, especially the dark web, to hide illegal materials stemming from trafficking and their real identities from investigators.”
The illicit proceeds from this highly profitable crime are also being laundered online through crypto currencies, which makes it easier for traffickers to receive, hide and move large amounts of money with less risk of being detected.
Today, the Internet provides easy access to a much larger group of potential victims because traditional physical and geographical limitations no longer exist.
Traffickers create fake websites or post advertisements on legitimate employment portals and social networking websites.
Live chat scams
Some of these sites feature the option of a live chat. This gives the trafficker immediate contact and the opportunity to obtain personal information, such as passport details, enhancing their power over the targeted victims.
Victims can be repeatedly exploited …….