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Advocates warn against human trafficking during the holidays

Advocates warn against human trafficking during the holidays (Madeline Montgomery/WPDE)

'Tis the season to be jolly and vigilant, according to an advocate for kidnapped and trafficked children.

"You've got a lot more people in the malls shopping, parents are busy looking for sales and bargains and the kids are wandering off and the parents have no idea where they go," said TJ Smith, the marketing coordinator for Vets for Child Rescue.

If a parent isn't watching, Smith says there's a new way traffickers are getting to kids and teens.

"They'll take young looking people out to a mall and they'll go out and speak to other teenagers, gain their trust, they might get their phone number, they might get their social media account, and then they're easily trackable," said Smith.

Traffickers can track kids through social media, but that's not the only way.

"Children are very susceptible to talk to someone on a game, so if there's a chat feature, obviously you want to disable that," said Smith.

So, are the holidays a more dangerous time here in Horry County? According to officials with the police department, they see sporadic cases all year long. Smith says with the internet, children can be vulnerable at any time and it's all about teaching them, and parents, to be vigilant.

"I think there's a misconception that 'it can't happen to me,' complacency if you will, that in our community it can't happen. And it can happen in any community," said Smith.

For a list of "Red Flag Apps" according to Vets for Child rescue, you can visit their website here.

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