Mysterious texts prompt questions about human trafficking


by Ty Duve, Director of Marketing

Several students at Simpson College have recently received text messages from random numbers saying, “Someone has complimented you on IRL.” The message also includes a link to click on to “show you” the compliment.

“I thought they were a scam to get you to click on the link,” said junior Reagan Bradshaw. “I always ignored them.”

Bradshaw, as well as other students, were curious about these texts but didn’t want to risk getting scammed.  

It was believed the link was linked to human trafficking, but Snopes reported IRL is a real app and is not linked to human trafficking.

Human trafficking is tied with arms dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world behind drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Polaris Project, which works to combat modern-day slavery, defines human trafficking as a form of modern slavery – a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 20.9 million people around the world.

Although there haven’t been many incidents on Simpson College’s campus, human trafficking is still a problem in Iowa. In 2016, Iowa was ranked in the country’s top 100 sites for suspected trafficking according to a national initiative by The Polaris Project.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline stated, there were 74 human trafficking cases reported in Iowa in 2017.

The Department of Homeland Security launched a campaign called, “If You See Something, Say Something,” in 2010 to encourage people to report any suspicious activity that occurs in their community.

Chris Frerichs, director of security, said he is not concerned about the texts but encourages students to reach out to him so he can connect with Iowa’s Attorney General’s Office.

“If you think there is something that you should not be ignoring, and you think there is a concern and you want to step up and take some action, there are ways to do that.”

Human trafficking awareness has increased in Iowa because of the number of current cases that have been reported. If any student feels unsafe on campus, there are plenty of people to reach out to who can help.

“I would not recommend students taking something on on their own,” Frerichs said. “There are resources available that we can connect them to to help.”

Frerichs also recommends students use the buddy system and keep in contact with someone. If a student is worried about something, tell someone.