Predators can be majorly slick characters, although many of those who commit crimes of opportunity (meaning they jump at the chance to kidnap a child because the opportunity presents itself) are just fumbling along.
In 34 percent of abduction attempts, the offender’s use force to kidnap their victims, including physical force, or use a weapon of some kind to threaten them into compliance. Force is used 57 percent of the time against kids under 5 (who are often near their parents!) and in half of the cases involving kids in high school. Children between 5 and 14 were mainly manipulated or coerced through verbal lures, which I describe below.
Here are the most commonly used verbal lures predators use to coerce children, according to a variety of resources I found on the Internet, including KidGuard.com:
The Gift Ploy
“Hey, kid. Would you like some candy?
Few children can resist the lure of free treats, money, or toys, and virtually all of them will take a stranger up on his offer, even when they’ve repeatedly been warned by their parents not to. Children need to be aware, no matter what their age, that accepting gifts from others without your permission is unacceptable and that most “harmless” people wouldn’t offer these things without talking to you first.
Teach your child to bust this ploy by telling the person “NO!” loudly and then running to tell you.
The Cute Animal Ploy
“Would you like to see my new puppy?”
It’s hard to resist this appealing trick. Even adults go up to strangers and ask if they can pet their animals. It’s so easy for a kidnapper to gain a child’s attention and trust just by approaching her while carrying an animal. They’ll often tell the child the animal’s name and ask her if she wants to pet it. Of course she does! Then, once the child comes close, it’s easy to snatch her and run.
Teach her to bust this ploy by coming directly to you to ask permission before going toward anyone she doesn’t know well. This will enable you to check out that “opportunity.” If it was a ploy, the predator will be long gone before you go outside.
The Emergency Ploy
“I need you to come with me right away! Your mom’s hurt and she sent me to pick you up.”
Any child would fall for this lure. Without giving it a second’s thought, she’ll go with a kidnapper who pretends there’s been an emergency involving her parent. Caught up in worry and fear, it’s easy for a child to forget the rules she’s been taught about not going anywhere with others without your permission.
Tell your child to bust this ploy by refusing to go with that person until he or she says the correct code word that you taught her in advance. (I teach about how and when to use code words in my book, Badass Parenting.)
The Assistance Ploy
“I lost my puppy. Can you come help me find him? I’ll give you a reward!”
Children are compassionate by nature and will usually jump at the chance to help someone in need. Crafty kidnappers play on that desire by pretending to be injured or needing help finding something. Teach your child that adults don’t ask children to help them; they ask other adults.
Don’t be afraid that you’re teaching your child not to be helpful and compassionate. Rather, help her bust this ploy by teaching her that the best way she can help is to find a trusted adult to assist someone in need.
The Name Ploy
“Hi, Jessica! It’s great to see you!”
Bedazzling your child’s name on her backpack or lunchbox is cute, but it could give predators a way to approach your child by saying her name as if the perp knows her. If you want to label your child’s belongings should they get lost, put the labels somewhere where they can’t be seen from the outside and bust that ploy!
The Friend Ploy
“I’m a friend of your dad’s and he asked me to pick you up from school today.”
This is a tough one to resist for kids who are afraid to say no to adults. Help your child bust this ploy by asking the person to say the secret code word you taught her in advance.
The Bad Child Ploy
“I’m a police officer. You’re in big trouble. Come with me!”
How scary is this ploy? And what child wouldn’t fearfully follow the instructions of an officious-sounding adult who told her to come with him “or else?” Help your child bust this ploy by insisting she go to you (or other trusted adult) immediately if anyone, even someone claiming to be a police officer, tries to take her away.
The “Open the Door’ Ploy
“Hello? I just had a car accident and I need to call for help. Can I come in and use your phone?”
This lure is similar to the assistance and emergency lures and is used to appeal to your child’s desire to help someone in trouble. Your child can bust this ploy by always refusing to let anyone in the house, no matter how much they beg and plead. Instead, tell her to call 911 immediately and then to call you.
Be the parent your child deserves!
the Badass Grandma
About CJ Scarlet
CJ Scarlet, aka the “Badass Grandma,” is a danger expert, victim advocate, and crime survivor herself. Most importantly, Scarlet is the doting grandma of three precocious toddlers. CJ has given speeches and workshops at national and international events; and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including MSNBC and NPR.
The former U.S. Marine photojournalist and forest firefighter holds an interdisciplinary master’s degree in Humanities with an emphasis on human violence from Old Dominion University. Named one of the “Happy 100” people on the planet, CJ’s story of triumph over adversity is featured in two bestselling books, including Happy for No Reason and Be Invincible.