In the past two and a half years, the Coronavirus pandemic changed the world and how people act overnight. With the introduction of this virus, it has been pushed by many people to enforce masks. The purpose behind masks is to protect people from transmitting the virus to others. 

Because masks hide the face, this gives criminals higher confidence and allows them to get away with more crimes. This does include kidnapping and human trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are unable to show any emotion due to a face covering and are able to be transported in public and not be recognized. In the city of Austin, Tx, the human trafficking rates have more than doubled between the years 2019 and 2020.

Around the world, there is an estimated 40.3 million victims involved in human trafficking. 25% of those people are minors under 18. Out of the 40 million people involved, 71% of those are female, while only 29% are male. That is because sexual exploitation makes up 79% of trafficking, with forced labor making up 18%. With all of this, the criminals running human trafficking make $150 billion per year. with $99 billion coming from sexual exploitation alone.

Author: Joey Kaiser; May 2022​

Online harassment is the act of name-calling or other forms of bullying that if it were to happen in the actual world, would be verbal and non-violent. This includes threats, which happen when the bully threatens to do harm or commit an illegal act against the victim. 

Exclusion is one of the most prevalent forms of bullying and is sometimes hard to recognize, even by the people doing it. This form of bullying is more common in the actual world but it can happen to anybody online. This happens when someone is not invited to an event but sees their friends invited, or they are left out of a message thread consisting of their friends.

Forced marriage is a less common form of human trafficking but it does happen. This is uncommon in the United States but is more common in undeveloped areas or third-world countries.

In a total of four months, Cruz called and texted the victim a total of 900 times on her cell phone, making an equal number of calls to her work and home phone. At this point, the FBI intervened and began looking for the perpetrator. Cruz had so many social media accounts with false information and many false names so It was difficult to find her.

Cyberstalking

Sex trafficking is the most prevalent form of trafficking. Roughly 32 million people worldwide are victims of this crime. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the very vast majority of this group are female. Some of the victims involved in this include children and minors under 18. 

Masquerading is the act of creating new and different profiles in order to cyberbully using any technique. This gives the bully a sense of anonymity and with that, confidence to say whatever they want to say. Multiple studies that were done by multiple people that can be viewed here prove that anonymity improves the odds of someone committing a mean or inappropriate act. This includes cyberbullying. People are also more likely to bully someone if they are with a large group of people. If a large group of people or a friend group bullies someone, it is more likely for someone to join in on the cyberbullying.

The FBI also gives everyone who wants it, access to the National Sex Offender Website. This empowers parents to know the name and address of every registered sex offender. Using this information, parents have easy access to know if an adult is a sex offender and if they can be trusted in that way.

With more and more information about people online, it is easier to be able to commit identity theft and become someone else online.

Cyberstalking is an illegal form of bullying, which consists of threats of harm, monitoring a person online, and making false accusations about someone for the purpose of bullying them. This form of cyberbullying is oftentimes associated with stalking in the actual world. This is an illegal activity that has led to jail time in the past.


Human trafficking is a huge problem around the world. Human trafficking is using the illegal exploitation of a person. This includes sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude. Other forms of human trafficking are forced marriages, forced criminal activity, and forced organ harvesting. In a court of law against human trafficking, it is required to prove force, fraud, or coercion. However, in the case where the victim is a minor, trafficking is taken more seriously and this proof is not needed. 

Human and Child Trafficking

Online Safety

Soon after, Cruz's fake account was blocked on social media, however, Crux found ways to message her and her friends. Cruz made violent threats and threatened to expose her pornographic past unless she was paid $100,000. The victim considered committing suicide and had a hard time concentrating on her work. 

The main point of a lot of social media websites is for people to post about what is happening in their life. As a result, people have less privacy, and there is an increase in privacy invasion.

The FBI eventually caught and persecuted Cruz when the set up a fake trade. They organized to give Cruz the $100,000 that she demanded, but arrested her instead. The agent leading the case made a comment saying, “Even while Cruz was being driven to jail, she still wanted to talk to the victim, she was blinded by her obsession and oblivious to the impact of her crime.” Cruz was sentenced to 22 months in prison for cyberstalking.

Online Protection of Children

Human Trafficking

Cyber Bullying

The FBI offers a program aimed at younger children on how to recognize good and bad websites, avoid malware, cyberbullying, and protect personal information. This program is called the SOS (Safe Online Surfing) program and can be found online here.

As technology advances, so does everybody's knowledge of it. The average person is able to do more advanced things with technology. This includes more forms of communication through a form of social media with friends or complete strangers.

Once a victim is involved in forced labor and is unable to say no to any task, there is nothing stopping the criminals to force the victim into any form of criminal activity. Whether it be theft, robbery, or murder, the victim has no choice but to do it. 

However, masks were used by criminals to hide their faces without looking suspicious to anyone as everyone was wearing a mask and it was normal. If a person chooses to, they could put on a hood, or sunglasses, and with the addition of the mask, their face was completely invisible. Common everyday criminals used this to their advantage in robberies in being able to walk into places and not be identified and not be suspicious.

Outing is the act of revealing sensitive or personal information of the victim without their consent. This can include sharing photos or saved private messages.

The app offers up-to-date pictures of the children as well as first and last names, addresses, birth dates, and fingerprints. The Child ID App also gives emergency numbers to 911 and to NCMEC, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The FBI urges anyone who suspects a child to be kidnapped or exploited to report it and not wait.

The story of the crime started when an 18-year-old made a bad decision in what she posted online, trying out pornography. She kept this part of her life hidden from her family and employers. 15 years after she did this, Kassandra Cruz, a college student studying criminal justice at Florida International University, found the adult film and tracked her down through her social media accounts.

Domestic servitude is a specialized form of forced labor. This form of human trafficking happens when the forced labor that the victim is forced into is housekeepers, nannies, or other types of domestic servitude. 

Cyberbullying is a huge problem with children, specifically high and middle schoolers. Cyberbullying is a form of harassment using electronic or technological means. This can include but is not limited to harassment, exclusion, threats, cyberstalking, masquerading and outing.

Although sex trafficking is by far the most prevalent form of trafficking, forced labor is second with 7.3 victims worldwide. Forced labor is other words for slavery. This happens when the victims are forced into working something without any pay. The victims are often forced into difficult living situations and struggle to survive. 

Although the internet is a very useful tool, it offers many more dangers to everybody who does not know how to use it.

Social Media everybody of all ages to connect with friends and family. ​However, as people post more often on a social media website, there is a higher chance of someone who is unknown to you to be able to know where the area of where you live, what you like to do, and where you often go. 

Sources:


“Social Media, Online Gaming and Keeping Children Safe Online.” Nidirect, 2 July 2021, https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/social-media-online-gaming-and-keeping-children-safe-online


“The 10 Types of Cyberbullying.” 10 Types of Cyberbullying, 4 Dec. 2019, https://blog.securly.com/10/04/2018/the-10-types-of-cyberbullying/


“Statistics.” Megan Meier Foundation, https://www.meganmeierfoundation.org/statistics


“Woman Sentenced for Cyberstalking.” FBI, FBI, 3 Jan. 2017, https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/woman-sentenced-for-cyberstalking


“Stop Sextortion.” FBI, FBI, 3 Sept. 2019, https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/stop-sextortion-youth-face-risk-online-090319. 


Gramlich, John. “What We Know about the Increase in U.S. Murders in 2020.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 29 Oct. 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/10/27/what-we-know-about-the-increase-in-u-s-murders-in-2020/?scrlybrkr=5c489431


“Crime Data Explorer.” Crime, 2022, https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/pages/explorer/crime/crime-trend


​“Human Trafficking Statistics: Global & State-by-State Data [Report].” Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Neal Davis, 2020, https://www.nealdavislaw.com/criminal-defense-guides/human-trafficking-statistics.html#how-common


​“Human Trafficking Rising during Pandemic, Experts Warn.” Neal Davis Blog, 26 June 2021, https://www.nealdavislaw.com/blog/sex-crimes/human-trafficking-rising-during-pandemic


​“Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude.” FBI, FBI, 3 May 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/violent-crime/human-trafficking#Report-Trafficking%20%20Get%20Help


“On the Internet: Be Cautious When Connected.” FBI, FBI, 3 May 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/on-the-internet


“Protecting Your Kids.” FBI, FBI, 3 May 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/protecting-your-kids#Human-Trafficking

FBI Protection

Law Office

The Kaiser Law Group, PLLC

Online, Cruz became a U.S. Marine named Giovanni and worked her way up to become an online friend of the soon-to-be cyberstalking victim. Cruz then began to like and comment on everything that she posted online, and suspicion began to grow once she started to do the same to all of her friends.

During the height of the pandemic, there was a mass increase in crime, including a 30% increase in murders. Between the years 2019, and 2020, there was an increase in violent crimes by more than 100,000, the biggest increase in crimes in a century.

The FBI often sees crime online when an adult makes a relationship with a child online and then later arranged with the child a place to meet. This establishes a false sense of trust in the child and the adult can do whatever they want. 

It is becoming more of a need for parents to educate their children about the dangers of being online. Some precautions that could be taken are to know what websites the child is using, have privacy restrictions on the device or site, and make sure that they understand that nothing can ever be truly deleted for certain. Every child should be able to know what to trust and what not to trust.

Social Media

Social Media itself does not present any new dangers, but it does make those dangers easier to come by, harder to identify and offer itself to more people who do not know how to respond to it. 

There have been cases of sextortion when people create false accounts, offer money in exchange for photos, and threats of violence or tell their friends and family information the victim does not want them to know. Cases of this happening can be read on the FBI website about sextortion. One case happened when a local youth pastor committed this against more than 20 minors across the country. When the FBI found him, he had more than 22,000 photos and videos of minors. The youth pastor received 50 years in prison for this act.

Suicide and bullying rates have skyrocketed with the introduction of cyberbullying. 20% of teens have reported being bullied at some point in their life, while 59% of teens reported being cyberbullied. 18% of teens have also reported committing self-harm, inflicting purposeful cuts to themselves, or attempting suicide. Both attempting suicide and suicide itself have doubled in occurrences since 2008. 20% of bullying and cyberbullying victims are associated with severe cases of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and academic problems. However, only another 20% of those victims revive the help they need to recover. 

Another common form of crime that the FBI commonly sees is the act of sextortion. Sextortion is what happens when a criminal makes threats against a minor in exchange for sexually explicit material. People have connected with children through many tactics. 

It is now easier than ever to bully someone while still under a mask of anonymity. While being under a username, anyone is able to tell anyone anything and get away with it without anyone knowing.

As briefly mentioned above, cyberstalking is the act of bullying through close online monitoring, threats, false accusations, and oftentimes actual stalking. The FBI released a case that can be read in full on their website or by clicking here about a woman who was a victim of cyberstalking and how the bully was sentenced to 22 months in prison once caught by the FBI.

It is also easier for children to get access to inappropriate material and to watch content that their parents do want them to view.

Dangers of Masks

The FBI takes online protection seriously and offers multiple programs for online be able to recognize and know how to respond to bad websites. This is offered primarily to children. They also provide services to protect against human and child trafficking and online protection.

The FBI also offers a Child ID App to anybody who wants to use it to protect a child. This app is a safe place for parents to store information about their children. 

Organ harvesting is a bloody and gruesome illegal activity in which organs are stolen and then sold on the black market. On the black market, organs are highly valued so they can be sold for a great profit. This is highly illegal and if caught with an illegal organ, the criminal is facing a five-year sentence in prison.