Categories for Awareness

Romance scams increase with Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2023

ALBANY — As Valentine’s Day approaches, the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection is warning New Yorkers about romance and sextortion scams.

Officials are offering information and tools to help identify and outsmart scammers who prey on people’s emotions and trust.

Romance scams occur when a criminal lies about their identity and uses romantic interest to manipulate or steal from the victim. Thieves use different variations of these scams to deceive unsuspecting daters.

One common variation used is “sextortion,” in which scammers encourage victims to send intimate images of themselves then demand money to keep it a secret and threaten to expose the victim to their contacts, family, friends and colleagues if payment isn’t sent.”

Although almost any age group can be lured into romance scams, but those most frequently targeted include teens, especially boys; college students; men and women over 40 years old; and senior citizens, especially widows, widowers and recent divorcees.


  • Fake profile pictures — Scammers create the illusion of someone you would be attracted to and trust. They seek opportunities to meet someone online and create profiles on a wide range of online platforms including social media, dating sites, messaging apps and porn sites. They often use pictures from the internet for their profile and may disguise their voice on the phone.
  • Building trust — Scammers are patient and will communicate for weeks or months until they’ve earned your trust.
  • Unavailable to meet in person — Scammers may propose an in-person meeting, claiming they will travel to see you, but there will be a last-minute emergency preventing it from happening. Be suspicious of anyone who says they want to meet but then always makes excuses for why they can’t.

Read the full story on The Daily News

Let’s Not Ignore That Human Trafficking Is Happening In Our Neighborhoods

January 28, 2023

by Christine Commerce, Communications Director

As we celebrate Human Trafficking Awareness Month once again and #WearBlueDay that took place on Jan. 11, I reflect on the principle of Think Globally, Act Locally.

For the past four years, I have worked as coordinator for the Diocese of Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force and now I am entering new territory as I transition from addressing human trafficking in Central Florida to a national level as the new Director of Communications for the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking. My role is very different, but the goals are still very similar – raise awareness of this issue, prevent trafficking from happening in the first place and have people take a look at how we play a role in human trafficking, including labor exploitation and our purchasing choices.

Aside from a national level focus, I still volunteer for this cause locally from participating in A21’s Walk for Freedom in October to the Central Florida Human Trafficking Task Force’s Red Sand Event in Orlando, where volunteers pour red sand into the cracks of the sidewalk to raise awareness by posting pictures on social media. The sand represents millions of victims who fall through the cracks due to lack of identification, services, law enforcement etc. There are an estimated 50 million people in human trafficking around the world if you include forced marriage.

Millions of people fall through the cracks with less than 1% of people in the United States who get the services they need to get out of the life. During a Christmas party, I recently spoke with my husband’s aunt, a retired emergency room nurse, who recognized the red flags of human trafficking: A 15-year-old girl with an older woman who spoke for her and had medical conditions that were consistent with someone who was experiencing sex trafficking. Yet when my husband’s aunt went to the doctor on duty with her concerns, his response was, “I don’t have time for that.”

My immediate response upon hearing this story was anger, not toward the trafficker but at this doctor, who is supposed to be committed to the care of others and saving lives. Yet, he was too busy to save the life of a 15-year-old girl. The average life span of a trafficking victim is seven years in the life because if they are not rescued or identified then they may die of a drug overdose, from medical complications or are killed. My anger turned into sadness for this girl who slipped through the cracks of a system that was supposed to help her but failed.

Another example was recently relayed to me when I heard of human trafficking survivor who needed food services and was never connected to the local food pantry. This breaks my heart as the services for human trafficking survivors are what helps them stay out of “the life.” Without resources, they are left without options, hope and the necessities needed to live their lives free from their traffickers who can very easily exploit their vulnerabilities and find themselves right back in “the life.” Soon after, she went missing and was just one more victim who fell through the cracks.

Each of us has a responsibility when it comes to human trafficking, whether that’s to learn the signs to help identify victims, to change the way we purchase products or to use our voice to speak up and create awareness of this issue. There are so many ways we can help and make a difference whether it’s writing to your favorite companies or contacting your legislators for policies to protect survivors and prosecute the buyers and traffickers.

William Wilberforce, a famous abolitionist who was instrumental in abolishing the slave trade in England once said, “We can choose to look the other way, but never again can you say you did not know.”

Together, by doing our own part whether it’s volunteering, educating or using our purchasing power, we can help end modern-day slavery and the exploitation of our brothers and sisters.

January, 2023 Monthly Reflection

January 1, 2023

May Justice Flourish

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

In our day may justice flourish and peace abound throughout all the nations! (Psalm 72: 7)

We must pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world for whom justice is simply an illusion. Among these are persons traumatized by the evil of human exploitation, in particular the tragedy of commercial sex and labor trafficking.

January 2023 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the United States.  The International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking and the feast of St. Josephine Bahkita, the patroness of human trafficking survivors, are celebrated on February 8.  You are encouraged to focus more deliberately on addressing the tragedy of human trafficking.

There are approximately 50 million children, women, and men caught in the vicious grip of exploitation and human trafficking throughout the world. Nearly double what it was 10 years ago.  Although illegal in every country, many countries serve as a source, transit, or destination for this crime.  Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex.  If the person is a minor, under the age of 18 and is exploited in any way, she or he is considered trafficked.  It is a serious crime defined under U.S. Federal Law.  Exploitation and human trafficking occur because predators thrive on holding power over and gaining profit from other vulnerable human persons whom they consider objects and property to be bought and sold.

Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbors, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.”  Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2015, #4

Thankfully, Pope Francis, world religious leaders, and thousands of others are raising awareness about trafficking and working toward its eradication. Specifically, what can you do to raise awareness and to eradicate human trafficking?

  1. Keep informed about human trafficking locally and nationally. Contact the appropriate authority, security guard, sheriff, local police or law enforcement if you think a person is being exploited.
  2. Check where your groceries, clothes, household items come from. Avoid buying products, which may be produced by exploited and trafficked workers. Wherever possible buy ‘Fair Trade’ and locally produced products. This helps reduce workers exploited through labor trafficking.
  3. Challenge your elected legislators at local, state and federal levels to address root causes of poverty, violence, racism and discrimination in all its forms, especially against women and girls. Insist on human rights-based policies.
  4. Befriend and assist asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers in your local church or community. Their stories may well reflect exploitation of some form.
  5. Pray for groups involved in supporting trafficked victims – the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking as well as other non-profit organizations. Offer to volunteer and/or to support them financially.
  6. Celebrate the feast of St. Josephine Bahkita – a former slave – on February 8th, designated as the International Day of Prayer Awareness against human trafficking.
  7. Follow the ‘social media feeds’ of the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking to keep updated and to get involved whenever possible.

We each have been touched by God’s mercy and compassion and fired by the inspiration of the Gospel.  We are called and challenged to accompany, advocate, educate and collaborate with others who strive for justice, in opposition to all forms of human trafficking and exploitation.

The Link Between Human Trafficking and Armed Conflict

May 5, 2022

By Felisher Ongera (USCSAHT Student Intern)

Tensions have been brewing for months on end without a resolution in sight. For two months, it has become clear that there is little to no peace progress being made in the Russian-Ukraine crisis. Families are being torn apart and economic desperation is on the rise for the Ukrainian people and those around them. This crisis, however, is not the only conflict in sight. From civil wars and political unrest to terrorist insurgencies, there is a large number of countries currently experiencing armed conflict. As people lose their jobs and homes while fleeing these countries to seek refuge, human traffickers are on the prowl, searching for ways to exploit victims.

It is no secret that traffickers prey on victims in search of employment opportunities. Oftentimes, victims are lured in by the promises of a higher-paying job. With a decrease in the availability of social services at this time, many victims can fall prey to traffickers. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates an average of 40.3 million individuals are trapped in forced labor. Armed conflict only worsens this prevalence, increasing refugees’ vulnerability to human trafficking. These people are trapped and exposed to indentured servitude or debt bondage and forced to work with little to no payment all while facing psychological and physical abuse.

Labor trafficking is not the only form of human trafficking that is rampant as a result of armed conflict. Child labor is just as heinous and its risk is heightened during periods of armed conflict. To begin, the ILO defines child labor as “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential, and their dignity, and that is harmful to [their] physical and mental development.” Parents often are unable to provide for all of their young ones and with economic desperation on the rise, children join the workforce in order to lessen their families’ burden and provide additional support. Traffickers take advantage of this and exploit these children, promising to help and provide. Once taken, they are often overworked, underpaid, isolated, deprived of education, and physically and sexually abused. Not to mention that at times of conflict, there is a rise in the unlawful recruitment and use of children through force, fraud, or coercion—to be used as combatants or constrained to work as porters, cooks, guards, servants, messengers, or spies. In addition to these child soldiers, the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report indicates that young girls can be forced to marry or have sex with commanders and male combatants. Therefore, it is essential we keep ourselves educated on the topic and keep in mind this increase in human trafficking in order to best learn how to assist in combatting both trafficking cases as well as providing humanitarian aid.

To learn more about the connection between armed conflict, labor, and child trafficking, read our Human Trafficking: Labor Trafficking education module and visit these websites:

Human Trafficking in Conflict Zones

Countries Currently At War 2022

2020 Trafficking in Persons Report

Documentary Made In Metro Detroit Focuses On Demand Of Human Trafficking

March 10, 2022

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A new movie about human trafficking made right here in metro Detroit has now been released to the public.

The movie called “Men Who Buy Sex” was made by the Wayne County Medical Society Foundation and Digital Media Works. It focuses on the demand side of human trafficking, hoping to bring an end to the epidemic.

The film may be new, but the problem is not. Sex trafficking has existed in metro Detroit for decades, and experts say it’s still happening every day.

“Absolutely, human trafficking is something that is happening every day,” said Amy Allen, a forensic interview specialist with Homeland Security Investigations. “We know there are lots of youth and women being trafficked every day here in the metro Detroit area.”

Allen is based out in metro Detroit and works with sex trafficking victims in the region. She says many of them report being trafficked up to 12 or 13 times a day to paying customers.

“The demand side of trafficking has really been something that hasn’t been talked about that much,” Allen said.

Read the full article by Brett Kast on WXYZ Detroit.

Beyond The Furrows: How Labor Trafficking Affects Farmworkers And What’s Being Done Locally

August 12, 2021

During the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers helped the rest of us keep some semblance of order during the initial wave of uncertainty.

And farmworkers are included in that workforce; they’re how we get our food on the table.

So when the pandemic hit, Andrea Rojas saw an increase in calls from agricultural workers to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. She knew that increase made sense, because calls from other industries like hospitality and restaurants went down, while there was sustained demand for farmworkers.

“That was one of the few industries that remained working and operational during the pandemic, where most of the other sectors were completely shut down,” Rojas said.

Rojas is the strategic initiative director for labor trafficking at Polaris, which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to combat sex and labor trafficking. Polaris also runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

“And it’s very telling about some of the failures in the system to protect these workers, because in order for a foreign national to connect with a national resource — with a National Human Trafficking Hotline — requires multiple steps in order to make that call,” Rojas said.

According to hotline data provided by Polaris to KCBX, agricultural labor trafficking victims were found to have most commonly dealt with verbal abuse, overworking, wage theft, and threats to be reported to immigration — whether they’re undocumented workers or not.

Rojas said the historical basis for labor trafficking in agriculture is twofold: its historical reliance on slavery and its current reliance on migrant workers.

Read the full story by Francisco Matinez on KCBX FM.

Warning Girls About The Tactics Of Human Traffickers

August 3, 2021

As we, the Africa Faith and Justice Network-Nigeria walked into Government Girls Science Secondary School of Kuje, Abuja, in Nigeria, I felt we were at the right place to speak with a vulnerable group of young girls who might be future victims of human trafficking. I was happy that we were going to share with younger children information about the dangers of human trafficking. The school administration was also pleased to welcome us to speak with the students on how to avoid being trafficked, and to teach them to speak out when they notice unusual behaviors. There were about 200 girls, from grades 7-12.

It was interesting that — though the students already have some idea about what human trafficking is — they were surprised that perpetrators can be family members or friends of a family. I could see their innocence and fear when they realized that no one could be trusted, since family members too are potential perpetrators of human trafficking.

They were very attentive and active during the program. The students were eager to know more and share with their friends about what they learned about human trafficking and the tricks perpetrators use to lure their victims. Anyone can be a victim and/or an agent for perpetrators. This was highlighted in a short drama that I guided them to act. The drama shows that there are chains of traffickers linked together, waiting for an available opportunity to strike.

In order to educate and inform their consciences, I asked the students if they understood the core message of the drama and the ideas it was trying to get across. Their answers were affirmative and that gave me joy. In fact, understanding the message I tried to get across with the help of a short drama means that this group of students will be able to elude the tricks of traffickers.

Read the full story by Teresa Anybuike on Global Sisters Report.

U-M Nursing, Law Collaboration Aims To Dispel Myths About Human Trafficking

July 18, 2021

Most people have heard of human trafficking, but few can define it. Even experts in law enforcement and academia can have a hard time quantifying the problem.

The new Human Trafficking Collaborative website, developed by faculty at the University of Michigan School of Nursing and the U-M Law School, was created to dispel myths about human trafficking and to train health care providers to recognize and treat victims.

Michelle Munro-Kramer, the Suzanne Bellinger Feethan Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, and Bridgette Carr, an associate dean and director of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the Law School, developed the project for those who would like to learn more about human trafficking. This forced or compelled service takes two primary forms: labor trafficking and sex trafficking.

In addition to the website, which launched this month, there is a continuing education module that meets state of Michigan training requirements for health care providers and videos documenting survivor and provider experiences.

The module is intended to help health care professionals identify and respond to survivors of human trafficking using a preplanned, comprehensive approach, so professionals know exactly what to do before a victim walks through the door, Munro-Kramer said.

There are also resources, such as sample screening policies and response procedures, that could be used at a health system level. Website content was informed by a statewide survey of federally qualified health centers, health departments and hospitals statewide.

“We know both from studies and from the experiences of my clients that health care providers are on the frontlines of combating human trafficking,” said Carr, whose law clinic provides free legal services for survivors of trafficking.

“My clients have shared how invisible they feel when they see a health care provider, and on the inside they are screaming for help but say nothing. This training is a tremendous opportunity for us to share our expertise with front-line health care workers in hopes of identifying more victims of human trafficking.”

Read the full story on University of Michigan News

Over Half Of Online Recruitment In Active Sex Trafficking Cases Last Year Occurred On Facebook, Report Says

July 8, 2021

The majority of online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases in the U.S. last year took place on Facebook, according to the Human Trafficking Institute’s 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report.

“The internet has become the dominant tool that traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them on a number of very common social networking websites,” Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros said on CBSN Wednesday. “Facebook overwhelmingly is used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”

Active cases include those in which defendants were charged in 2020, as well as those in which defendants were charged in previous years and charges were still pending in trial last year or the case was on appeal.

Data from the last two decades included in the human trafficking report showed that 30% of all victims identified in federal sex trafficking cases since 2000 were recruited online.

In 2020 in the U.S., 59% of online recruitment of identified victims in active cases took place on Facebook alone. The report also states that 65% of identified child sex trafficking victims recruited on social media were recruited through Facebook.

The tech giant responded to the report’s findings in a statement to CBS News: “Sex trafficking and child exploitation are abhorrent and we don’t allow them on Facebook. We have policies and technology to prevent these types of abuses and take down any content that violates our rules.”

Read the full story by Elizabeth Elkind on CBS News.