I've seen all over my social media feed the past few days people posting a warning for those who have a Snapchat account. This even happened to me personally. And then I saw this post on Facebook that got shared by hundreds of people that I know:

So there’s a sex trafficking ring going on in Lawrence Mass. If you get a random person who tries adding you on Snapchat this morning and it says “added by search” it’s the trafficking ring and they’re using snapchats to locate girls. I received one this morning, didn’t accept because I don’t accept people that I don’t know because of this reason. Be safe! 👀
Ps…. try me!!!👀👀👀
Update- I’m only making this post in good taste. Bringing awareness for ANY type of sex crime/crimes in the area as anybody else would upon learning and seeing things I had seen. That is what a social platform is for and supposed to be used to help people. I DID NOT mean to inflict fear, only knowledge, so people can be safe. I heard about it and have seen evidence for myself based off the photo. Not releasing any names or anything personal due to respect of privacy. Only reason why I posted this was because I was worried about family members, friends, and concerned for my community. Police were notified. And things are being handled.

I have the 'Snap Map' activated on my account, but only to those whom I am friends with. I woke up a few days ago to a notification of someone wanting to be my friend - who had apparently searched for me by my username. I had no idea who this was, so I deleted the request.

Apparently I wasn't the only one getting requests from people searching by username.

Rumors were flying around the media that this scandal is actually tied to a sex trafficking group targeting people in Lawrence, Mass. The claim was that the criminal ring could use Snapchat to "locate unwitting girls, kidnap them and sweep them into the sex-trafficking operation."

The real question here - is this real?

According to Snopes, the answer is no. 

Using official social media channels, Lawrence police stated that, “The LPD has been made aware of a social media scam referring to sex trafficking. There is no substance to this matter. As always the public should use caution when responding to, or clicking on posts from individuals they do not recognize.” Snapchat also stated that the allegation appears to be “a case of disinformation.”

Snopes also said that the "hoax appeared to exploit a lack of understanding about how Snapchat works." For example like me, users’ locations are not shared unless they opt to do so, and even then, their locations are only revealed to friends they have selected to share them with. In other words, even if a Snapchat user opted to add a stranger as a contact, the user would have to actively choose in the platform to share a location with that stranger.

Regardless, it's important to discuss with your kids the importance of online safety. Snapchat has a whole safety guideline list available for viewing - including some of the following tips:

  • Snaps Disappear, But...: Remember, even though Snaps are designed to disappear, a friend can still grab a screenshot or take a picture with another device.
  • Privacy Settings: Check your privacy settings to choose who can send you Snaps, or view your Stories and location on Snap Map.
  • Friends: Snapchat was made for keeping in touch with your close friends, so it's suggested against friending anyone you don't know in real life.
  • Report Safety Concerns: If you come across something upsetting, or if anyone asks you to do something inappropriate or that makes you uncomfortable, please report the Snap — and talk to your parent or a trusted adult about it. You can also report a Snapchat safety concern on the web.

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