Having a child abducted by a stranger is many parents biggest fears. In surveys, a third-of-parents worry about it more than car accidents, sports injuries and drug addiction.
In this article, we will share the top 5 tricks child abductors actually use. We’ll also give you ways you and your child can beat them!
Child Abductions – The Facts
Fortunately,the statistics show that the likelihood of our kids being abducted is extremely rare. There are approximately 100 children abducted and killed every year.
That’s about one for every 10,000 missing report filed. Almost half of these are committed by family members.
To put that into perspective, they are around 15 times more likely to die in an automobile accident. As abductions are covered a lot on TV, in newspapers and made into movies; we tend to remember and fear them more.
The bad news is a high percentage of successful abductions result in the child being murdered or sexually assaulted. Especially if the child is missing for more than three hours.
Most abductors will also look to conceal and hide the body. This a child’s fate could go unknown for many years – as shown recently in the tragic case of Jacob Wetterling.
The Top 5 Child Predator Lures
The NCEC logged child predators using over 100 of these tricks – which they’ll often combine. Here are the top 5 lures they use:
- 29% offered a ride.
- 12% offered candy or sweets.
- 16% Engaged the child with questions
- 8% Offered money
- 7% Used an animal (such as a dog)
Keep this video in mind when reading on. It should help you think about role-playing exercises you could use (with the help of somebody your kids don’t know) to increase your child’s safety.
Let’s now look at each lure in slightly more detail. Remember, these are taken from over 10,000 cases so are backed up by real-world evidence.
Lure 1 – Your Child Is Offered A Ride
This by far the biggest lure that child abductors use. Almost 1-in-3 will try to get a child into their vehicle by offering a ride.
Many abductions happen when walking home from school. In 71% of attempted abductions, the predator had a vehicle. (Source)
How To Beat It – YELL, Run, Tell !!!!
Many parents already teach children not to get into stranger’s cars. They also need to go one step further.
Children should never approach any car they have not seen before. If someone follows in a car they should stay away. If somebody tries to grab them they should scream “This is not my Dad / Mom!” as loud as they can.
Follow the rule – “Yell, Run, Tell”! Teach your children they should immediately tell you if anybody has made them feel threatened or uncomfortable.
It’s vitally important to teach our children that it’s better to be safe than polite.
Lure 2 – Your Child Is Offered Candy
This is another well-know trick that even our own parents warned us about. Sadly, the reason that it’s been around for ages is that it’s so successful.
This ruse is used to gain a child’s trust before taking them to a secondary location.Here’s another “Social Experiment” video that shows how kids fall for it and how you can role-play it.
How To Beat It – Identify Strangers By Actions Not Looks!
Ideally, your child should shout “No!” and run away. The problem is that younger kids are innocent and trusting. Unless they are taught different, they may see strangers as people who wear masks or look like monsters from the latest marvel movie.
Kids need to also identify “strangers” by their actions and not their appearance. You can teach your kids not to accept anything without your agreement. You can practice this when friends or relatives offer gifts, too.
Books like “The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers” and “Once Upon a Dragon” are particularly helpful for younger children.
Having kids draw what a stranger looks like is a good idea. You can guide to understand strangers look no different from anybody else.
Lure 3 – Your Child Is Asked Questions
Your child could be asked questions like helping look for another missing child or animal, to take a picture (or have a picture taken), directions, etc, etc.
How To Beat It – Ignore, Scream, Use A Cell PhoneWhen “hands off” abduction attempts were analyzed, children were most likely to get away by ignoring the predator, using a cell phone as a threat and adult intervention. (source) Depending on the age of your child they could:
Scream to attract adult intervention
Say “I can’t help you!” and maintain a safe-distance
Take out their cell-phone and say “Let’s call my parents first”
Kids should also be made aware that adults don’t ask for help from kids. They ask for help from other adults.
Lure 4 – Your Child Is Offered Money
This trick is another “offer trick” and is a variation on a child being offered something desirable like candy or ice cream.
How To Beat It – Use Teachable Moments
Just like the candy example, you can train your children to not accept any gift without your consent or knowledge.
Plenty of teachable moments should present themselves – particularly during the holiday season.
Lure 5 – A Cute Pet Is Used
As you can see in the video we linked above, using a puppy is an extremely effective method for gaining a kids trust.
Would-be abductors could also use other kid-friendly pets like kittens or a baby rabbit.
How To Beat It – Teach Kids To Stay Away!
Most dog owners are wary of having their dog around kids they don’t know. If a dog was to bite a kid or even show aggression it creates an a really bad situation for them. They could have there dog taken away and face legal problems.
Teaching kids that dogs don’t want to be petted and it’s safer for the both of them if they don’t is a great way to beat this lure.
Unfortunately, kids often have a blind-spot for cute dogs. Some will rush towards them with no thought for their own safety (from the dog or stranger).
They can be taught not to touch or go near any dog they don’t know – which when you think about it makes great parenting sense anyway!
Additional Lure – Family Emergency
It’s not in the top 5, but another common lure worth mentioning is using a family emergency.
A stranger may approach your child and tell them there’s been an emergency / accident and they need to come with them quickly.
How To Beat It – Have A Code
The FBI encourages parents to teach children a “Code Word”. If child predator says they are a friend of the parents or there’s been an accident.
Make sure your child knows the code and regularly practice it with them in a form of a game.
Also, drill into your child that they should never go with anybody off school grounds, out of the house or with someone without telling another adult first.
Get them to practice saying “I need to check with my teacher / Mom/ Dad first” and walk away
For further resources, check out Gavin de Becker’s great book “Protecting The Gift” and also see our tips for a safer neighborhood.