Des Moines Police Weigh-In on Viral Snapchat Sex Trafficking Post

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Several posts regarding Snapchat location features and random users adding people as friends are raising concerns about privacy and location sharing in the app.

It all started with a warning post on Facebook from Lawrence, Mass. saying people who “added you by search” in Snapchat could be trying to get your location from “the Snap Map” and force you into sex trafficking.

Here in Des Moines, Eliza Hatcher noticed more people showing up that added her “by search” so she shared the same message, fearing the same thing.

“You share so much through your social media. Where you are, who you associate with, what you do, what school you go to even and people can see that. If you don’t have your privacy settings on, people can get onto your profile and find all this information about you and they could find you potentially. And it's a thing that people don't think about that there’s people out there that are going to come after them in anyway, but it’s a real problem,” Hatcher said.

Lawrence Massachusetts Police said there’s “no substance” to the sex trafficking part of this.

Des Moines Police don't believe this is a sex trafficking tactic either.

“I think you found somebody who might have some criminal intent or some bad intentions and they want to somehow get close to you that may be possible but as far as a larger scale sex trafficking, kidnap, recruit you, take you away, this is not how that happens,” Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek said.

Hatcher said whether the sex trafficking part is true or not it’s important to be aware of who’s adding you and who can see your location

“We all have to look out for each other,” Hatcher said.

Sgt. Parizek said this is a good reminder to examine who you’re adding as a friend and your privacy settings in your phone and in your apps.

"If you've got a group of friends, for lack of a better term, that you really don't know who all of them are and you start sharing your location you might invite a stalker into your life. You might invite someone who's got some criminal intent or just a bad guy who you never know what's going to happen. So you have to be super careful when you're doing those things because the where you are and the who you are with and the what you're doing are things that those folks may look for," Sgt. Parizek said.

You can turn off the location feature on Snapchat by going to the app's settings and turning on what's called "ghost mode."

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