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Mom Issues Warning After Potential Predator Follows Daughter In Store

It seems like these stories have been popping up all over social media lately: parents issuing warnings to other parents to keep their eyes peeled for creepy retail store stalkers targeting their children. Another such story has surfaced, this time out of Beloit, WI.

Mom Katt Marie issued a public warning to other parents on her Facebook timeline March 31 after she claims a man followed her, her husband, and her kids around their local WalMart.

According to Marie, the family first suspected the man was following them in the kids’ section. In order to see if this was the case, Marie’s husband, Stephen, took their daughter to another aisle, at which point the family observed the following:

This man had no concern what Stephen was doing but kept his eyes on Kinsley. He picked up random kids clothes acted like he was looking at clothes with no kids or anything with him. This went on for nearly an hour.

Marie continues, explaining that when she reported the potential stalker to an employee, she was met with indifference. At this point, the family decided to move to a different part of the store. The man followed behind. That’s when Marie decided it was time to confront him:

I had to go to the bathroom so i left the kids with Stephen . I saw this man still watching, my mother instincts kicked in n i started walking right to him. As soon as he noticed he took off. We later asked the head of security if this man was an employee and told him what happened. He said no that man is absolutely not an employee n he immediately got on the phone with police and notified the workers never would i ever think we would have to worry about someone trying to steal our kids. [sic]

This warning follows one issued by a mom of 3 who claims her family was targeted by potential human traffickers at an IKEA last month and is not the first of its kind.

While it’s important to keep an eye out for ne’er-do-wells, particularly when out in public with children, some argue these social media warnings are dangerous and actually spread misinformation. According to CBS News:

These types of stories perpetuate misinformation, which leads to people being misinformed about how human trafficking happens in real life. It’s not like a Hollywood movie. People aren’t coming up and kidnapping victims like in the movie ‘Taken.’

It’s not happening overnight or as some people have described ‘in a matter of seconds or minutes. I’ve seen them take as long as a year or two years before they lure their victim away. It’s a long-term process.

A mother’s (and father’s) instinct is a powerful thing and not something to be taken lightly. But it’s possible that jumping to conclusions about alleged criminal behavior and posting about it on social media so quickly could actually be causing more harm than good by distracting people from learning about the warning signs of seasoned human traffickers.

Regardless, I know I have been in a situation while out in public where I felt both uneasy and unsafe. For my part, I will, like this mom, continue to be vigilant about keeping tabs on who is around my children and me and reporting suspicious behaviors to authorities when necessary.

I will also educate myself about the signs of human trafficking. One can never be too informed.

For more information about human trafficking, myths and misconceptions, and potential warning signs, visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline.