What’s the Truth?
1. Wayfair: FICTION
In July 2020 people on social media made posts alleging that Wayfair, a US based furniture company was involved with trafficking children online. The website had certain high-priced furniture with female names which prompted a media frenzy and a conspiracy theory.Wayfair is an American e-commerce company that sells furniture and home-goods.The conspiracy started on a social media site called Reddit. A user by the name of /PrincessPeach1987 made a post questioning whether it was possible that Wayfair was involved with human trafficking due to the extraordinarily high price of some of their cabinets. The cabinets also had names similar to that of women. Here are the prices alongside the names:
- Neriah Storage Cabinet by WFX Utility $14,499.99
- Yaritza Storage Cabinet by WFX Utility $13,799.99
- Alyvia Storage Cabinet by WFX Utility $12,699.99
- Samiyah 5 -Shelf Storage cabinet by WFX Utility $12,899.99
Within hours the post went viral, spreading to Facebook and Instagram, where more people started to speculate that the names on various pieces of overpriced furniture were associated with names of missing persons. However, this has been disproven. One of the above cabinets had Samiyah in its name, people claimed that she was a (17 year old) missing girl from Columbus, Ohio. Though this was refuted when Samiyah Mumin made a video stating that she wasn’t missing. According to the news site WUSA9 another example was that posts connected a missing girl named Samara Duplessis to a Wayfair throw pillow being sold for $10,000 named Duplessis. But her family reported she was home back in May. They also found that when searching the word “Duplessis” on the Wayfair website multiple items come up, this is true for nearly every name searched on the website, even lesser known ones. There is no tangible connection between the names of missing persons and the names of furniture listed on Wayfair.According to a BBC report when questioned about the prices of the furniture Wayfair’s response was that the cabinets were a reasonable price because they are industrial size and meant for business and commercial use. The claims regarding the price of the pillows were addressed as well. Wayfair stated that those were actually price glitches.Soon following these claims came another theory, according to Newsweek. People were finding that when using a Russian search engine Yandex, if they entered the SKU (stock keeping unit number) after entering a certain code with an earlier debunked conspiracy theory associated with Tom Hanks (“SRC USA”). These searches prompted images of young girls on the computer screens. Though this is true, any string of numbers entered will trigger the same results.Therefore, the conspiracy theory has no basis in fact.On July 20th 2020 Polaris; a reputable anti-human trafficking organization in charge of the National Human Trafficking Hotline issued a statement regarding the Wayfair trafficking claims. Polaris informed the public that it was aware of the Wayfair conspiracy theory and determined it was baseless. Polaris indicated the volume of posts regarding this conspiracy was inhibiting its ability to provide support and attention to others who are in need of help.The Wayfair human trafficking conspiracy theory is without a factual basis.
2. Zip-ties: FICTION
In October 15th, 2018 San Angelo Police issued a statement after receiving multiple phone calls regarding social media posts claiming that zip ties were being used by traffickers to target potential female victims of human trafficking. These zip ties would be tied around side mirrors, mailboxes, lamp posts, and fences. The police department stated that they had not received any reports about human trafficking, or kidnappings during that time, and that they were not receiving reports of zip ties being used to target woman in the community.The woman who made the initial post claimed to have found a zip tie on her car’s side mirror and used the discovery to warn other women about the zip ties and the “danger” attached to them. She posted a picture of the car inferring that it was her car however she was not the owner of the car pictured. This brings into question her veracity.Polaris, a reputable anti-human trafficking organization in charge of the National Human Trafficking Hotline published a statement that said: The majority of human traffickers will lure victims psychologically, usually by deceiving, manipulating, threatening, or defrauding the victims. Generally, victims will be trafficked by people they know, while stranger abduction is less common. Therefore, the use of “tags” to identify potential victims is not typically used. According to Polaris the most prevalent myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situationThough it is true that zip ties can be used to bind victims, there is no evidence to suggest that they are used to actively target/tag potential victims.
3. F1B1: FICTION
In August 2020, a post began to circulate on Facebook posted by someone in Bricktown, New Jersey. The post was a picture of the back window of a car with “F1B1” on it. The woman who posted the picture claimed that her friend’s car had been “marked” by human traffickers. She assumed that the writing was an acronym for 1 Female 1 Baby.According to Snopes.com Bricktown police Sgt. Jim Kelly stated that the police weren’t aware of vehicle markings of any type related to criminal activity, and that no reports had been filed regarding that issue. He stated, “It’s simply another Facebook rumor without any facts”.In her post the woman claimed that an anonymous friend heard this rumor from yet another anonymous source.According to Polaris: a reputable anti-human trafficking organization in charge of the National Human Trafficking Hotline: the most prevalent myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. When in reality the majority of human traffickers will lure in victims psychologically, usually by deceiving, manipulating, threatening, or defrauding them. Generally, victims will be trafficked by people they know, while stranger abduction is less common.Based on the information presented. There are no reports nor evidence to support that placing messages on windshields is used to actively target/tag potential victims.
Tereszcuk, Alexis. “Fact Check: No Evidence Wayfair Is Selling Human Trafficked Children On Their Website With Very Expensive Cabinets.” Lead Stories. Lead Stories LLC, July 13, 2020. https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2020/07/fact-check-wayfair-is-not-selling-human-trafficked-children-on-their-website-with-very-expensive-cabinets.html.(TEGNA), Author: Jason Puckett. “VERIFY: Separating Fact, Fiction in Viral Claims about Wayfair, Human Trafficking.” wusa9.com. WUSA9, July 14, 2020. https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/wayfair-viral-claims-human-trafficking-fact-check/507-020359b3-f3a6-4d3f-a964-6f570b01e4b5.Seitz,
Amanda. “Baseless Wayfair Child-Trafficking Theory Spreads Online.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, July 16, 2020. https://apnews.com/9d54570ebba5e406667c38cb29522ec6.Whalen, Andrew. “Kids Shipped in Armoires? The Person Who Started the Wayfair Conspiracy Speaks.”
Newsweek. Newsweek, July 15, 2020. https://www.newsweek.com/wayfair-child-trafficking-conspiracy-theory-cabinets-scandal-1517013.Polaris. “Polaris Statement on Wayfair Sex Trafficking Claims.” Polaris. Polaris, July 20, 2020. https://polarisproject.org/press-releases/polaris-statement-on-wayfair-sex-trafficking-claims/.Oct 15, 2018 02:18 PM.
“San Angelo Police Dispel Social Media Posts Regarding Local Attempted Abductions for Human Trafficki.” San Angelo Police Department. San Angelo Police Department, October 15, 2018. http://www.sanangelopolice.org/articles/view/san-angelo-police-dispel-social-media-posts-regarding-local-attempted-abductions-for-human-trafficki-5bc4e8a9-ae88-498f-be44-02fb0a1ed55f.Edgin, Alana. “Zip Ties on Cars Not Linked to Sex Trafficking, Police Said.” San Angelo Standard-Times. San Angelo, October 15, 2018. https://www.gosanangelo.com/story/news/2018/10/15/sex-trafficking-scare-social-media-deemed-false-texas-police/1651105002/.Polaris. Polaris. Polaris. Accessed September 16, 2020. https://polarisproject.org/.
Wall, Karen. “Rumor Of Sex Traffickers At Brick Walmart Unfounded, Police Say.” Brick, NJ Patch. Patch, August 13, 2020. https://patch.com/new-jersey/brick/rumor-sex-traffickers-brick-walmart-unfounded-police-say.Evon, Dan. “Are Sex Traffickers Tagging Cars as Potential Targets?” Snopes.com. Snopes.com, August 25, 2020. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sex-traffickers-tagging-cars/.
 Alexis Tereszcuk, “Fact Check: No Evidence Wayfair Is Selling Human Trafficked Children On Their Website With Very Expensive Cabinets,” Lead Stories (Lead Stories LLC, July 13, 2020), https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2020/07/fact-check-wayfair-is-not-selling-human-trafficked-children-on-their-website-with-very-expensive-cabinets.html.
 Author: Jason Puckett (TEGNA), “VERIFY: Separating Fact, Fiction in Viral Claims about Wayfair, Human Trafficking,” wusa9.com (WUSA9, July 14, 2020), https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/wayfair-viral-claims-human-trafficking-fact-check/507-020359b3-f3a6-4d3f-a964-6f570b01e4b5.
 Amanda Seitz, “Baseless Wayfair Child-Trafficking Theory Spreads Online,” AP NEWS (Associated Press, July 16, 2020), https://apnews.com/9d54570ebba5e406667c38cb29522ec6.
 Andrew Whalen, “Kids Shipped in Armoires? The Person Who Started the Wayfair Conspiracy Speaks,” Newsweek (Newsweek, July 15, 2020), https://www.newsweek.com/wayfair-child-trafficking-conspiracy-theory-cabinets-scandal-1517013.
 Polaris, “Polaris Statement on Wayfair Sex Trafficking Claims,” Polaris (Polaris, July 20, 2020), https://polarisproject.org/press-releases/polaris-statement-on-wayfair-sex-trafficking-claims/.
 2018 02:18 PM Oct 15, “San Angelo Police Dispel Social Media Posts Regarding Local Attempted Abductions for Human Trafficki,” San Angelo Police Department (San Angelo Police Department, October 15, 2018), http://www.sanangelopolice.org/articles/view/san-angelo-police-dispel-social-media-posts-regarding-local-attempted-abductions-for-human-trafficki-5bc4e8a9-ae88-498f-be44-02fb0a1ed55f.
 Alana Edgin, “Zip Ties on Cars Not Linked to Sex Trafficking, Police Said,” San Angelo Standard-Times (San Angelo, October 15, 2018), https://www.gosanangelo.com/story/news/2018/10/15/sex-trafficking-scare-social-media-deemed-false-texas-police/1651105002/.
 Polaris, “Polaris,” Polaris (Polaris), accessed September 16, 2020, https://polarisproject.org/.
 Karen Wall, “Rumor Of Sex Traffickers At Brick Walmart Unfounded, Police Say,” Brick, NJ Patch (Patch, August 13, 2020), https://patch.com/new-jersey/brick/rumor-sex-traffickers-brick-walmart-unfounded-police-say.
 Dan Evon, “Are Sex Traffickers Tagging Cars as Potential Targets?,” Snopes.com (Snopes.com, August 25, 2020), https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/sex-traffickers-tagging-cars/. Polaris, “Polaris,” Polaris (Polaris), accessed September 16, 2020, https://polarisproject.org/.