By Tanya Parker, Unity in Action Magazine, Source FBI Press Release Oct. 15
During and prior to COVID-19 restrictions, the FBI identified instances where social media or social networks were used to facilitate child abductions, such as in the following examples:
In June 2020, a 13-year-old girl was reported missing by her father, who stated she met someone on social media the week prior. The 13-year-old used social media to communicate with a 21-year-old man who traveled from Louisiana to Texas to pick up the girl. Customs and Border Protection intercepted the abductor's vehicle, recovered the victim, and arrested and charged the abductor with aggravated kidnapping and sexual assault. The victim later revealed she believed she found a new friend online who would help her run away to Mexico.
In October 2019, an 11-year-old girl was reported missing. She had been using a social media application to connect with two people, who communicated with the child over the course of several months. The individuals later revealed they planned to abduct the girl and instructed her to bring her passport and immunization records when they met. The victim was recovered and reunited her with her family before the abductors could fully follow through with their plan.
In March 2016, a 13-year-old girl left her home to meet with an individual she had been communicating with online, whom she thought was a young boy. When she arrived at the agreed upon meeting place, she realized he was not who he claimed to be, but he forced her into his car and sped away. The abductor physically and sexually assaulted her. The FBI recovered the victim four days after the kidnapping, when the abductor posted online images of himself abusing the victim.
If you believe you are or someone you know is the target or victim of child abduction:
Contact your local law enforcement agency or your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices
File a complaint online with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov
Report child abductions and/or attempted child abductions to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
Victims are encouraged to keep all original documentation, emails, text messages, and logs of communication with the subject. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it; and
Tell law enforcement everything about the online encounters. It may be embarrassing for the parent or child, but it is necessary to find the offender. When reporting online scams, be as descriptive as possible in the complaint form by providing:
Name and/or username of the subject
Email addresses and phone numbers used by the subject
Web sites used by the subject
Description of all interaction with the subject
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DEVICE HAS BEEN COMPROMISED
Do not forward any suspected e-mails or files.
Disconnect the device from all networks immediately and turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Consult with your corporate IT department, ensuring they are notified of any significant changes.
If there is no IT department, consult with qualified third-party cyber security experts.
Report cyber attacks or scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov.
It is helpful for law enforcement to have as much information as possible to use in the course of investigating these incidents; however, it is not required in order to receive assistance.
The FBI produced this public service announcement to bring awareness to parents and children of the threat posed by child abductors and increase awareness of the dangers of sharing details with or trusting strangers on social media or social network platforms.