British model Chloe Ayling says she was drugged and kidnapped in Milan, Italy, last month by the human trafficking organization Black Death, but the outlaws abandoned their plans to sell her as a sex slave and ship her to the Middle East when they discovered the 20-year-old was the mother of a son — a violation of the group’s “rules.”
Ayling was much luckier than most victims.
An estimated 20.9 million people are currently “trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and which they cannot leave,” according to the International Labor Organization’s Global Estimate of Forced Labor.
And, sadly, predators of young women are finding it easier than ever to capture their prey, thanks to social media apps like Instagram that models use to promote their careers.
“While the incident with Chloe Ayling is deeply troubling, it’s, unfortunately, part of a growing trend, aided by social media’s accessibility to models,” said music video director Chris Applebaum, who has worked with notable models and celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Kate Upton.
“I don’t think groups like Black Death pose as photographers as much as they are event organizers or brands offering to pay influencers to attend events.”
Applebaum, in an interview with Fox News, recalled a recent disturbing event.
“I was approached by one of these groups looking to get in contact with a well-known model. They wanted her cellphone number. After a day of explaining I can’t do that without her permission, they grew more anxious, offering me a commission of 8,000 euros ($9,425) to help connect them.
“The group explained the model would have all her expenses paid and first-class airfare to the Middle East for a weekend ‘party’ with some high-profile guests.
The host was willing to pay the models 80-90,000 euros ($94,000 to $106,000) for a night of ‘fun.’
“Before I blocked this predator from my Instagram,” Applebaum continued, “I remember their chilling parting message. I explained that none of the high-profile models would care to attend these types of events or parties, as I knew them personally and that’s not what these girls are like.
“The party responded by saying, ‘You’d be surprised how common this is.’”
It’s not just common, it’s easy — because models today use social media to book legitimate work, which makes them more accessible to predators.
“It’s easier because the perpetrator can profile their victim, study them and select their choice of captive,” said Richard Schoeberl, U.S. team leader for Hope for Justice, a nonprofit that aims to “bring an end to modern slavery by rescuing victims, restoring lives, and reforming society.”
“So often,” said Brian Pacheco, a spokesman for Safe Horizon, which runs the largest anti-trafficking program on the East Coast, “it is months or years of exploitation, abuse and being forced into acts they do not want and certainly do not deserve. And for those that can escape or find safety, they are forever changed due to the trauma they experienced.”
Modeling industry experts offered safety tips for models to avoid danger.
“Be more selective before [accepting] people on all social media platforms, and when traveling to areas of the world that are known to be dangerous, make sure you are not alone, and that there is ample security,” said Craig Lawrence, president of ONE Management.
Robert Casey, President of Maggie, Inc., said models need to speak up if something seems off.
“If the environment or people seem irregular, call the modeling agency immediately,” he said. “The agency should do their due diligence to thoroughly check out the people we are working with, but at the end of the day, we are not physically on-site with the model and depend on the model to communicate if any of the circumstances are off.
“I’ve seen several cases where the model has gotten into sticky situations because they are so anxious to impress and please the people they are working with that they sacrifice common sense.”
Fox News.com Reporter and FOX411 host Diana Falzone covers celebrity news and interviews some of the today’s top celebrities and newsmakers. You can follow her on Twitter @dianafalzone.