Why sharing unsubstantiated, alarming posts is harmful

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - A Facebook post is making the rounds locally that claims to describe two alleged human traffickers targeting individuals at Post Oak Mall.

Tristen Lopez with the College Station Police Department says those claims are “not true.” See the full conversation with Lopez in the video player above.

"We are aware of social media posts circulating which warn about human trafficking activity. We have also received inquiries as to the validity of these posts. While these posts are obviously alarming and deeply concerning, especially for parents, we have not received any report to support activity of this nature.

"Similar posts have circulated in recent months concerning human trafficking at malls or shopping centers in other cities, and law enforcement agencies in those cities have also been unable to support these claims.

"When encountering an alarming post on social media (which is not made by a credible news agency or official governmental organization), please call your local law enforcement agency to ask if the situation is true before sharing potentially false information.

"While we do not have any report of this activity occurring at Post Oak Mall, or at any other public place in our city, we do know that human traffickers target victims who are vulnerable. Statistics and facts show that victims of Human Trafficking typically have certain risk factors, including: substance abuse, past sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, being a runaway as a juvenile, truancy from school, or a child of foster care.

"Everyone is encouraged to always be aware of their surroundings, never leave a public place with a stranger, never divulge personal information (such as your full name or address) to a stranger, and report suspicious activity immediately by calling your local law enforcement agency (CSPD at 979.764.3600) or 911.

"We have reached out to Post Oak Mall Security; they are aware of the social media posts and know to be on the lookout for such activity and to report it immediately to our agency."