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College Students Easy Targets for Criminals

Most people assume that those who are abducted by strangers are small children. Yet most are actually teenagers.

Ken Wooden, a child safety expert from Princeton, showed how vulnerable teenagers are to criminals attempting to lure them into their vehicles. With a hidden video camera set up by a CBS Early Show correspondent near two college campuses, Mr. Wooden went through a number of different methods that predators often use.

The experiment showed that many of the young adults displayed poor judgment and fell for the traps.

In Mr. Wooden’s first test, he posed as a police officer, one of the tactics often used by criminals. The abductor lures the unsuspecting teenager into his van to watch surveillance video. After he requested assistance with the video from two teens, both students entered the vehicle. In both incidents, Mr. Wooden was not driving a police car or even wearing a uniform.

In another case, he pretended to need help with some boxes. He said that this is one of the easiest methods a predator uses to trick people. Mr. Wooden put a sling on his arm and asked young adults for assistance loading boxes into his vehicle. Every student he asked fell for the trick.

One girl said, “He didn’t appear threatening, so I didn’t have a problem helping him.”

Yet Mr. Wooden said many teenagers are looking for the wrong kind of person. Teens often look for suspects who appear to be monsters, when they should be on the lookout for someone “with a good story…who has the art of deception down to perfection.”

In another example, he tested students at a different college campus. Using another common criminal tactic, he pretended to be lost and offered cash to students if they would help him drive around downtown. Tempted by the money, a few of the students jumped into the van and drove off with a total stranger. After the van was stopped by CBS News, it was explained to the boy that it was just a demonstration. The student admitted the offer of free money had “clouded his judgment.”

Some of the students said they felt a little uneasy about getting into the van, but that they felt they could protect themselves if they needed to do so.

In one case, Mr. Wooden told a youth that if he got in the van he would be part of a reality show. As part of the “reality show,” he told the student that his hands had to be duct-taped together. Surprisingly, the student let him do it.

In all of the instances, about one in four of the teens fell for the tricks. The child safety expert was shocked at how easy it was for him to coax students to enter his vehicle. Almost every student said they felt uneasy getting into the van, but they did it anyway, against their better judgment. Teens were advised to be aware of the traps abductors set, such as the ones Mr. Wooden used.

Source: CBS News