Fact Check

Are Traffickers Leaving Zip Ties on Targets' Windshield Wipers?

Awareness of one's surroundings is always good, but scarelore can also lead to unwarranted fears.

Published Dec. 2, 2019

windscreen wipers frozen to a car on a frosty morning (Getty Images/Stock photo)
windscreen wipers frozen to a car on a frosty morning (Image Via Getty Images/Stock photo)
Human traffickers are leaving zip ties on potential victims' windshield wipers.

In November and December 2019, a meme circulated on Facebook warning that human traffickers were leaving zip ties on women's windshield wipers as they shopped to mark them as potential victims/targets for abduction:

This was a variation of a familiar meme that we identified as false in July 2019. At that time we reported:

Human trafficking affects millions of people worldwide, but it’s also the frequent subject of viral scarelore — fictional tales intended to frighten audiences, often prompting them to share without questioning the story.

One such story went viral in October 2018 and again in late July 2019 when social media users shared a meme stating that human traffickers were leaving zip ties (in some posts, black in color) on homes, mailboxes, and cars, of potential female victims to either mark them as targets or distract and abduct them for sex-trafficking purposes when the women try to remove the ties.

The hoax initially centered on San Angelo, Texas, in October 2018 but police there quickly debunked it.

We rate the newer variation as "False" as well, because although police in College Station, Texas, addressed the meme and reminded citizens to always be aware of their surroundings, officers were unaware of zip ties being used by human traffickers to mark potential victims.

Have you seen other variations of this claim? Let us know.

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and has covered everything from crime to government to national politics. She has written for ... read more

Article Tags