“My windshield wipers were zip tied together while I was shopping,” the text reads. “Law enforcement let me know that this is a trick human traffickers use and when women struggle trying to remove the ties they are abducted.”
It shows two photos of car windscreen wipers bound together with zip ties, also known as cable ties.
“Be aware of your surroundings and drive somewhere safe with a lot of people around before trying to remove them if this happens to you,” the meme warns.
Human trafficking is the illegal sale of people – like slavery. It’s a trade in people, who are held against their will.
Is this really a human traffickers’ trick that is well known to law enforcement?
No reports, but still remain vigilant
Africa Check asked Brig Vishnu Naidoo, spokesperson for South Africa’s national police commissioner, about the claim.
“No, we have never heard such reports,” he said.
“There are a lot of fake warnings. They prove to be done with malice.”
He added: “All we can say is that people must be very vigilant at all times. But this, what you are saying to me, I have never heard of – never.”
Claim’s origins in Texas, US
The claim seems to have first surfaced in San Angelo, a city in the US state of Texas, in October 2018.
The city’s media and the local police were quick to respond.
On 15 October 2018 the San Angelo Police Department published a statement on viral social media reports on the human trafficking “trick”.
The department, it said, had “not received any reports of human trafficking, kidnappings or attempted kidnappings relating to human trafficking nor have we received any reports of black zip ties being used as a means to mark a target of any type of crime”.
Distraction used by thieves
In 2019, a similar claim resurfaced, again in Texas, but this time in College Station.
On 26 November 2019 this city’s police department also issued a statement on the claim.
“It is extremely unlikely,” they said, that the “trick” was used by human traffickers. If it happened, it was more likely a way for thieves to distract people.
And on 2 December 2019, the Houston-based Texas news station KHOU published an article debunking the claim.
For more, see US-based fact-checker PolitiFact’s examination of the claim. – Eileen Jahn and Taryn Willows
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