You open your eyes and it’s completely dark. Your head is throbbing and you’re in a tight space in a fetal position with your arms tied behind your back and your feet tied together.
You taste copper in your mouth and realize it’s blood. Your heart is starting to beat so hard it’s nearly coming out of your chest as you realize you’re in a car trunk of a car that isn’t moving. Panic sets in…
The last thing you remember, you were going in for an interview at a company after being unemployed for nearly a year. It was weird that the boss wanted to interview you at his house in a rough neighborhood, but you try not to be judgmental and you really really need the work.
You’re remembering that you were only in that house for a few seconds before someone hit you in the back of the head and everything went black.
Now all you can see is a crack of light coming from outside, but not enough to mean it’s daytime.
Do you start kicking and screaming for help? Or is whoever attacked you right outside of the car? It’s so quiet and you have no idea where you are or how you ended up there, but you know you’re in danger.
This panic is drilled into the heart of people every day in America, both men and women just trying to earn a living that end up violently thrown into the sex trafficking trade.
You may think you’re too smart to fall for a sex trafficking scheme. You probably think it’s just drug addicts desperate to get high.
Human sex trafficking can happen to anyone at any time, and there are red flags that are either unknown or overlooked by people from all backgrounds.
Traffickers use various tricks, from pretending to be a romantic partner, a provider, or even extortion. But the most dangerous are the people that promise the world (a high paying job no matter your qualifications, a nice car, vacations, new clothes).
We want you to be aware and open-eyed, and urge you to never be so desperate that you can’t walk away – that’s how they get you.
This is not the definitive guide, there could be more red flags, but we want you to live, so here’s how you can tell what’s normal and what’s not.
Red flag #1 – overpromising
You’re probably not the type of person to fall for the bandit signs on the side of the road that promise travel, a fancy car, clothing budgets, and high pay, but no experience is required (and all you have is a phone number to call). But your child or niece/nephew might…
What all of these signs have in common is that they offer a lure but no details.
These signs or shady online ads often use female names to appear more trustworthy, and require you to text them (you won’t hear their voice because it’s not a polished receptionist, it’s a scary sex trafficker).
If you can’t get any details in advance of inadvertently giving someone your phone number by texting or calling, it may not be safe – don’t call/text. It’s not worth it.
If they tell you to check out their Instagram account and it’s just pictures of someone’s unidentifiable hands holding wads of cash, that’s a common method to appear legitimate (“but look how much money they made!”) but it’s a common ingredient in scams of all sorts, including trafficking.
Red flag #2 – they don’t ask you questions or give info
If a company that you’re inquiring about (online or via a sign) doesn’t ask you any questions, you may be in danger.
All legitimate businesses will want to review your professional experience, even if you’re applying for entry level work. They’ll care if you’re in their industry or interested in their industry.
If there is no way to apply online, or nowhere to email your resume, and they get angry with you for asking, it’s not a legitimate opportunity (sex trafficking or otherwise).
If they jump immediately to an interview after you text “I’m interested,” that’s not how normal businesses operate. Legitimate businesses can’t interview everyone that is interested, it’s not logistically possible. That’s a big red flag.
If you can’t even tell what industry it’s in or what the position is, the best choice is to not even contact them.
Don’t overreact to personal questions, sometimes traditional employers ask them, but do run if someone asks questions about your body or how you would react in certain sexual situations. Even if the interviewer is a well dressed older woman – many tricks and disguises will be used to lure ou in.
Red flag #3 – the interview is in a weird place
Small businesses will often interview you in a Starbucks, and that’s totally legitimate.
But if you have ignored the first two red flags and found yourself lining up an interview, look at Google Maps before you head that way.
Some online advertisers will say that you’re such an interesting candidate that the boss wants to meet you personally at his home.
That is not normal. You should never go, even if the boss is well known.
But in the case of sex trafficking, you won’t have the real name of a person, and if the interview location is a run down, dilapidated house, you’re going to end up in a trunk. Sometimes it will even be in a decent looking house, but that’s still not normal and they could be renting it online for the day to appear more upstanding.
If you look on Google Maps and it’s in an abandoned strip mall that you know hasn’t had any open companies in a decade, that’s another terrible sign of danger.
All interviews should be at a company’s offices, or in a very public place like a Starbucks. And even if the interview goes well and the interviewer wants you to immediately go to a private location, never ever ever do that.
If you have a WeWork or coworking space in your city, if you aren’t totally sure about a lone interviewer or their chosen location, tell them you cowork there and you’d be happy to meet there in public, in the bright lights (you can buy a day pass if they say yes). If they’re unwilling to meet in a public space, run.
Lastly on this red flag, if you end up meeting at Starbucks and it doesn’t go well, your gut says you’re in danger, or you rejected their offer to immediately go to their house to continue the interview, don’t leave first. Stay put, lie, say you have another meeting there in a few minutes, and let them leave first so they can’t follow you to your car. Watch them drive away. And if your gut still says you’re in danger, tell an employee that you’re going to your car and ask if they’d make sure you got there and the creepy interviewer doesn’t get you (that’ll get their attention).
Red flag #4 – weird contracts
Let’s say you’ve found yourself answering a shady ad that you didn’t know was shady. They say it’s all remote, so you don’t have to meet anyone in person. So far, so good.
Maybe they promised that you’ll do a ton of fancy international travel, and their headquarters are in another nation, so the contract is in another language, but they tell you what it says so you sign anyways.
Wrong. If an employment contract is in another language, you truly have no idea what you’re signing to – don’t do it.
But that’s not the only part of this red flag. In this scenario, sex traffickers will have you take the contract to a local who will translate it for you, answer all of your questions, and help you through the process by holding your hand.
They’re remote too, so you’ll have to go to their house, but they assure you the person is your same gender, and you’re not in any danger, they’ve helped hundreds of people and just want to help you.
If you go to that house for “help,” you’ll likely end up victimized.
Red flag #5 – money flows oddly
This red flag is applicable to a number of scams, not just human sex trafficking. If you are required to pay money up front before getting a job (for tools, training, or inventory), you’re either joining a scam, a MLM scheme, or being stolen from. That’s not normal for a traditional full time opportunity.
On the other end of the spectrum, traffickers that are Promisers try to gain your trust, so without meeting you, they may mail you a check as a sign on bonus (you were smart enough to reject giving them your bank account information for direct deposit which is a common way to scam people out of money).
You’ll put the check in the bank, it’ll sit there for a few days while it clears, but meanwhile they’ve gained your trust and start working toward meeting you in person and fast forwarding the trafficking process.
The check isn’t going to clear, but now they have your home address, likely your phone number, name, and if you were tricked into filling out an application, they have your Social Security Number.
Your identity could be stolen and sold, or worse, it could be used to track you down and find you in person, knowing how vulnerable you are since you missed all of the previous red flags.
Red flag #6 – the company is a mystery
So maybe you’re a really smart person and you’ve avoided all of the red flags.
Maybe you just saw a simple Craigslist ad that didn’t provide a company name, but the opportunity sounds legit, so you email through their relay system to avoid giving your real email address. You ask for details. Smart.
In most cases, they’re smaller businesses avoiding being bombarded by desperate third party recruiting firms, so they keep their name off of the ad. Those folks will tell you their website, who they are, and any information you’re seeking.
Do your homework. Find them on Glassdoor, Google around.
If they don’t have a website, maybe they’re just getting started, but the founders should at least be on LinkedIn and have real people they’re connected to (which is still no guarantee of legitimacy. If there’s no mention of them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Google, ask for more information.
If someone gets angry at your inquiries, or refuses to answer, they’re either illegitimate, or they’re looking for victims. Either way, it’s not worth it, stay away.
Red flag #7 – your gut says it’s dangerous
Although it should be number one, the final red flag is that if your gut tells you any part of the process is off, trust your intuition.
We’ve experienced it
We operate a very large Facebook Group called Austin Digital Jobs and we’ve worked with the Austin Police Department (APD) to report sex trafficking posts online that appear legitimate, but are far from it.
Two instances have happened in this very well known, reputable group (both of which were immediately spotted by members, publicly declared as sex trafficking and scams), but it shows you these traffickers can blend in and go anywhere.
One instance gave no details, but they were looking for an assistant and only offered a phone number. Some of our members texted for more details and within minutes of the posting, shared publicly that they were asking female candidates to “interview” at a scary looking house in a bad part of town. The post was screenshot, removed within minutes, and APD was immediately notified – they were familiar with the address and took action.
Separately, a link to a Craigslist ad for a personal assistant at a “consulting firm” for $50/hr was posted in our Facebook group, insisting that only attractive females apply, and a picture of them was required (and that they’d have to be “comfortable using [their] body”). It was immediately removed and reported to Facebook, Craigslist, and APD. Some would have believed it to be real because the description of interacting with clients sounded standard, but there were too many red flags (the police agreed).
It can happen anywhere to anyone, male or female. Even the major job search sites have to battle the evolving tricks of human sex traffickers, but the bottom line is that if no info is offered and it sounds too good to be true, it is.
We beg beg beg you to heed these red flags and share them with people you care about – we don’t want any of you to be beaten, raped, or even killed. And above all, trust your gut when it tells you a situation is dangerous.
Even if you feel like you’re losing an opportunity, it’s better to be poor than dead.
This story was first published July 2018.
Chasing Clubhouse success? How the audio chat room trend affects products
(BUSINESS NEWS) It is inevitable that when a new successful trend comes along, other companies will try to make lightning strike twice. Will the audio chat room catch on?
Businesses are always about the hot new thing. People are the always looking for the easiest dollar with the least amount of effort these days. It tends to lead to products that are shoddy and horribly maintained with the least amount of flexibility in pleasing their customers. However, you also have to look at the customer base for this as well. You follow where the money is because that’s where its being spent. It’s like a merry-go-round, constantly chasing the next thing. And the latest of these is the audio chat room.
During the pandemic the entire world saw an eruption of social audio investments. Silicon Valley has gone crazy with this new endeavor. On the 18th of April this year, Clubhouse said it closed on some new funding, which was valued at $4 billion for a live audio app. This thing is still in beta without a single penny of revenue!
The list of other companies who have pursued new audio suites (either through purchase or creation) include:
This whole new audio fad is still in its infancy. These social media and tech giants are all jumping headlong into it with who knows how much forethought. A number of them have their own issues to deal with, but they’ve put things aside to try and grab these audio chat room coattails that are running by. It’s a mix of feelings about the situation honestly. They are trying to survive and keep their customers.
If a competitor creates this new capability and they stay stagnant then they lose customers. If they do this however without dealing with their current issues then they could also lose people. It’s an interesting catch 22 for people out there. Which group do you fall in? Are you antsy for a new toy or are you waiting for one of these lovely sites to fix a problem? It’s another day in capitalism.
This web platform for cannabis is blowing up online distribution
(BUSINESS NEWS) Dutchie, a website platform for cannabis companies, just octupled in value. Here’s what that means for the online growth of cannabis distribution.
The cannabis industry has, for the most part, blossomed in the past few years, managing to hit only a few major snags along the way. One of those snags is the issue of payment processing, an issue compounded by predominantly cash-only transactions. Dutchie, a Bend, Oregon company, has helped mitigate that issue—and it just raised a ton of money.
Technically, Dutchie is a jack-of-all-trades service that creates and hosts websites for dispensaries, tracks product, processes orders, keeps stock of revenue, and so much more. While it was valued at around $200 million as recently as summer of 2020, a round of series C funding currently puts the company at around $1.7 billion—approximately 8 times its worth a mere 8 months ago.
There are a few reasons behind Dutchie’s newfound momentum. For starters, the pandemic made cannabis products a lot more accessible—and desirable—in states in which the sale of cannabis is legal. The ensuing surge of customers and demand certainly didn’t hurt the platform, especially given that Dutchie is largely responsible for keeping things on track during some of the more chaotic months for dispensaries.
Several states in which the sale of cannabis was illegal also voted to legalize recreational use, giving Dutchie even more stomping ground than they had prior to the lockdown.
Dutchie also recently took on 2 separate companies and their associated employees, effectively doubling their current staff. The companies are Greenbits—a resource planning group—and Leaflogix, which is a point-of-sale platform. With these two additions to their compendium, Dutchie can operate as even more of an all-in-one suite, which absolutely contributes to its value as a company.
Ross Lipson, who is Dutchie’s co-founder and current CEO, is fairly dismissive of investment opportunities for the public at the moment, saying he instead prefers to stay “focused with what’s on our plate” for the time being. However, he also appears open to the possibility of going public via an acquisition company.
“We look at how this decision brings value to the dispensary and the customer,” says Lipson. “If it brings value, we’d embark on that decision.”
For now, Dutchie remains the ipso facto king of cannabis distribution and sales—and they don’t show any plans to slow down any time soon.
Ford adopts flexible working from home schedule for over 30k employees
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford Motor Co. is allowing employees to continue working from home even after the pandemic winds down. Is this the beginning of a trend for auto companies?
The pandemic has greatly transformed our lives. For the most part, learning is being conducted online. At one point, interacting with others was pretty much non-existent. Working in the office shifted significantly to working remotely, and it seems like working from home might not go away anytime soon.
As things slowly get back to a new “normal”, will things change again? Well, one thing is sure. Working from home will be a permanent thing for some people as more companies opt to continue letting people work remotely.
And, the most recent company on the list to do this is Ford Motor Co. Even after the pandemic winds down, Ford will allow more than 30,000 employees already working from home to continue doing so.
Last week, the automaker giant announced its “flexible hybrid model” schedule to its staff. The new schedule is set to start in the summer, and employees can choose to work remotely and come into the office for tasks that require face-to-face collaborations, such as meetings and group projects.
How much time an employee spends in the office will depend on their responsibilities, and flexible remote hours will need to be approved by an employee’s manager.
“The nature of work drives whether or not you can adopt this model. There are certain jobs that are place-dependent — you need to be in the physical space to do the job,” David Dubensky, chairman and chief executive of Ford Land, told the Washington Post. “Having the flexibility to choose how you work is pretty powerful. … It’s up to the employee to have dialogue and discussion with their people leader to determine what works best.”
Ford’s decision to implement a remote-office work model has to do in part with an employee survey conducted in June 2020. Results from the survey showed that 95% of employees wanted a hybrid schedule. Some employees even reported feeling more productive when working from home.
Ford is the first auto company to allow employees to work from home indefinitely, but it might not be the only one. According to the Post, Toyota and General Motors are looking at flexible options of their own.
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