Human traffickers on the hunt for new victims around the holidays

Pixabay / MGN
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(WJRT) - Shoppers beware.

While it is a prime time of year to score some great deals at many retailers, it is also a prime time for human traffickers to recruit.

"Promises of jobs to young people. 'Oh you're so beautiful, you could be a model' or 'You know you could be a recording artist,'" Amy Rouleau said of traffickers' common pitches.

She survived human trafficking herself and now runs Restoration Place, a nonprofit in Swartz Creek aimed at helping victims of human trafficking.

Rouleau said traffickers will try to charm their victims, earn their trust and then emotionally manipulate them.

"They'll become friends on Snapchat or Instagram and before you know it, they're invited to a party and they're like 'Oh, we're friends now,' and it goes from there," Rouleau said.

The best line of defense? Body language.

"We're so distracted on our phones. We're looking down at the ground when we're walking, so we need to display behaviors that display confidence, even if we don't feel confident," Rouleau said.

Anyone who thinks young women are traffickers' only targets, think again. Rouleau said a study by St. John University found 44 percent of people trafficked under age 18 are boys.

Gender aside, anyone with a gut instinct telling them something's wrong should listen and trust it, she said.

"Report it to somebody, whether it's a store manager, mall security or even the police and be like, 'You know what, something just doesn't seem right. This is what happened. This is where I was' and let them look into it," Rouleau said.