It's a scary headline - but, is it real? Are people being approached in our area for the purpose of human trafficking - or is it something else?

My Facebook news feed has been a buzz in the last 24 hours with people claiming they - or a friend - has been approached in a parking lot, or other public place. People are assuming these incidents have been related to human trafficking.

Before we go any further, here's an explanation of human trafficking from our government's own Homeland Security:

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.

Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime.

Human trafficking is a hidden crime as victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, and/or fear of law enforcement.

Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.

In the twelve hours prior to writing this story, I asked a few of Atlantic County law enforcement agencies if they are aware of the claims popping up on Facebook lately. So, far, no officially comment - but, we'll add any comments that are forwarded our way.

The big question: Are those posting about these incidents reporting them to police? We don't know that.

Again many of these posts say this "happened to a friend" and are not in the first person. If something like this has happened to YOU, we encourage you to share your story - but, most importantly, contact police.

Could it be true - or maybe just another internet hoax? Stay tuned.

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