New warning about sex trafficking in Florida

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- WINK News has a new warning for parents about a possible scam aimed at recruiting teens into the world of human sex trafficking.

We discovered a new flyer popping up in at least one Florida county advertising quick cash for teens looking for work.

It reads “Teen Jobs” in big letters, advertising a chance to earn up to $300 a week after school and on weekends, with transportation provided. It does not specify what type of work it is advertising.

The flyer has shown up in Polk County within the past week or so. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating, but experts say it has all the signs of a human trafficking scam.

The flyer has not been reported in Southwest Florida.

“We firmly recognize human trafficking, at all ages, as being a problem in our community,” said Trish Routte with Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers.

“I think parents should be concerned a great deal about this,” said Alex Olivares, coordinator at the Florida Gulf Coast University Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Olivares says sex trafficking is more common in SWFL than people realize, with traffickers preying on kids at schools, shopping malls, and on the internet.

“Everybody has a Facebook profile for example, a trafficker can go on there right now and learn some stuff about your life and use that to his advantage,” said Olivares.

According to the FGCU Human Trafficking Resource Center, 49 sex trafficking victims were rescued in SWFL in 2014,  twelve more than the year before.

In March, 15 suspects were arrested after a lengthy investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into human trafficking rings. Eleven are from SWFL.

Olivares says the victims often have no way out.

“There was a case out of northern Florida where the pimp had a 17-year-old girl working out on the street, and when she said she was going to leave, about half an hour later he sent her a picture of him with a gun to her mom’s head,” said Olivares.

There are certain warning signs you can look for in girls that may be victims of sex trafficking, says Olivares, such as tattoos of names on their neck or on the inside of their bottom lip, or if they have sexually explicit social media profiles.