“Sex Traffickers at Ikea?” Free-Range Kids Cited by Snopes!

When yet another anfyyatynk
mom wrote about her kids ALMOST being sex trafficked
— an assessment she made on the basis of noticing some men at Ikea (yikes!) who seemed to be looking at her children — I checked my favorite urban-myth-busting, hysteria-slaying site, Snopes, searching for “Ikea sex traffic.”

There wasn’t anything there —  yet.

Now there is: a gloriously rational take-down of the idea that predators are prowling the aisles of popular stores, tearing children away from their moms, racing them out to their cars and then across state lines, without anyone stopping them. Not the screaming mothers. Not the kicking kids. Not the stunned customers. Not the no-nonsense lady at the door who checks your receipt to make sure you’re not STEALING anything. Not the cops. No one. Nope. It’s just a quick, easy way to get a child or, in the case of the mom with the viral Facebook post, her three children at once.

So bask in this newest Snopes entry, and enjoy the fact that you read a lot of it here first:

Missing from the constellation of these hair-raising tales was documentation that abductions are commonly (or even rarely) being carried out in the described manner, as crime statistics don’t seem to back up claims that such a ruse is truly happening “all over.” Free Range Kids author (and advocate for reason-driven parenting) Lenore Skenazy addressed the uptick in such reports on social media, pointing out their illogic and pleading for a realistic approach to the growing number of social media abduction horror stories:

Here’s the FRK quote:

What the heck is going on, America? This “My kids were about to be trafficked, I just KNOW it” post is so shockingly similar to last week’s, “My kids were about to be trafficked, I just KNOW it” post that it feels … creepy. A lot creepier than being at Ikea where a couple of men glance at my kids.

The reader who sent me this link asked if I thought there might be some “validity” to it, to which I must respond: No. In fact, I think it’s crazy. What, two men are going to grab two or three kids, all under age 7, IN PUBLIC, in a camera-filled IKEA, with the MOM and the GRANDMA right there, not to mention a zillion other fans of Swedish furnishings?

Can we please PLEASE take a deep breath and realize how insanely unlikely that is? How we don’t need to be “warned” about this? How NOTHING HAPPENED!

You can TELL nothing happened, because the whole thing was described as an “incident.” And Lenore’s #1 Rule of Reporting is: When something is called an “incident,” it’s because nothing happened. In fact, my alternate headline for this post was:


And hey — while you’re visiting Snopes, please check out the other child-danger rumor that refuses to die: The one where a child is snatched at a fair, or store, or Disneyland, and dragged into the bathroom, where his/her hair is dyed or cut off, so even if people are looking for this particular tyke, they’ll be thrown off by the new look.

This myth has been circulating for decades, says Snopes. But a few summers ago, my neighbor told me never to take my eyes off my kids while shopping, because this terrible near abduction/haircut thing had just happened to a friend of a friend hers, and (of course), “It’s happening all the time.”

Which is true: Scary stories about child predators are happening all the time. Thus we hail Snopes — and thank them for adding us into the mix. – L.


OMG — there’s another one of them! A MALE! At Ikea! We all know what HE wants!



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87 Responses to “Sex Traffickers at Ikea?” Free-Range Kids Cited by Snopes!

  1. Edward Hafner March 28, 2017 at 10:48 pm #

    Lenore, this should be tagged as a “Success Story” – wouldn’t you say. WooHoo!

  2. SKL March 28, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    Let us know if the Ikea security footage is ever posted online. There’s nothing like cold hard facts to keep us on solid earth.

  3. CrazyCatLady March 28, 2017 at 11:42 pm #

    Ah, now if I could only get the parents on the “Granola” group to actually read (and believe) Snopes. Nope, it is all a government conspiracy….like vaccinations. They would much rather treat their kids with magic water that is known as homeopathy than to use a little bit of scientific reasoning, actual facts….or common sense.

  4. LGB March 29, 2017 at 12:49 am #

    Helicopter parenting is unique to crunchy granola parents? I’m gobsmacked. How delightful to witness the birth of a new stereotype.

  5. Judas Peckerwood March 29, 2017 at 1:07 am #

    @CrazyCatLady: “They would much rather treat their kids with magic water that is known as homeopathy than to use a little bit of scientific reasoning, actual facts….or common sense.”

    Ah, but science is hard, superstition is easy.

  6. Amanda March 29, 2017 at 1:29 am #

    My first thought when I read the story was, did you call the police? Did you file a report?

    What’s that? No? Oh, you just let the security guard know about it. Well did they make an announcement over the intercom? Did they lock down the store in abject horror to make sure not even one child got stolen?

    No again? Weird since it was such a dire and shocking situation you felt it imperative to contact your local news station and slather it all over FB.

  7. dancing on thin ice March 29, 2017 at 1:44 am #

    @crazyCatLady I share Snopes links to people of all political stripes, spots or strange orange tans to counter their bizarre beliefs.
    At the opposite end, my sister is a scientist that will be at one of the “March For Science” rallies next month.

  8. VanCity March 29, 2017 at 1:57 am #

    Congratulations Lenore!! Snopes is now quoting YOU!!!

  9. Aware March 29, 2017 at 3:19 am #

    Ah… has anyone of you thought of the other much worse side of the coin – “What if she was right?” A living breathing innocent child is not one to gamble with folks. If she just said to herself… there no true hard evidence that these two oddly acting men are up to no good.. lets face it they will not be wearing signs saying..”I’m up to no good!” Noo….. they will only be providing very subtle clues if any at all…..so yes, do you REALLY think it prudent to completely ig-nore that fact that these two guys are consistently and staring at her kids? Better safe than sorry with something that is irreplaceable!

  10. Junion Pintal March 29, 2017 at 3:43 am #


    Better safe than sorry?

    Do you know the chance for a car wreck? Better not take them in a car, better safe than sorry.
    How about getting hit by lightning?
    How about getting stung by bees and having a deadly allergic reaction?
    How about tripping, falling, and injuring themself badly?
    How about getting a deadly illness?
    What about something falling out of the sky and hitting them?
    Being near an armed robbery?
    Getting caught in stray gunfire (gangs, huntings, kids messing around, etc)
    The parent being busy, the kid sneaking off without the parent knowing…and exposing themself to any of these dangers…or even stranger abductions?

    Better safe than sorry….we should make sure they can’t leave the house…nor even go anywhere without their parent knowing..nor being exposed to anything.

    Oh yes, we also need to protect them from poking out their own eyes by accident.
    Accidentally scraping their knees, spraining an ankle, stubbing their toe…

    Hmm…we’ll just amputate all of their limbs..and to make sure they don’t choke, we’ll use feeder tubes..they can lay safely in their bed their whole lives..mommy and..no-one else there because men are dangerous don’t you know. Actually many mothers have done horrible things to their children.

    So arrest the mother and father before they are ever able to even think about hurting their child. Better safe than sorry.

    And to become a ward of the state they go…just sitting in a bed..feeder tubes keeping them alive…all safe and sound…we’ll make sure no-one can hurt them, so as few visitors as possible. After all over-stimulation can be bad for them.

    I mean….better safe than sorry.

  11. BL March 29, 2017 at 5:40 am #

    I mentioned this on the previous thread, but I’ll do it again a bit less snarkily.

    This mother was, by her own description and a picture, spread out in the middle of a furniture store having a play party and picnic with three children.

    Maybe that might earn her a few stares and glares from customers who are actually shopping for furniture? Maybe they were wondering when she’d move on so they could look over the items she was stretched out on? Maybe she and her children were making enough noise to be distracting? Maybe the children were doing things that might damage the furniture (walking, jumping) and no store employee was intervening?

  12. Jennifer C March 29, 2017 at 7:25 am #

    I have to second what BL said. By the mother’s own account her kids were climbing on the couches, flopping on the couches–even eating food on them. Perhaps it’s because I’m a different generation, but my mother would have never let me and my siblings do those things in a furniture store. The staring customers were probably wondering whether they should notify the store employees or have a word with the mom about her kids’ behavior.

  13. Kerry March 29, 2017 at 8:23 am #

    Look, I’m really glad this woman used her “mommy instincts” and moved away – everyone SHOULD trust their gut. The problem is that we as a society haven’t figured out how to deal with the fact that our brains tend to jump to all kinds of worst-case scenarios, and those thoughts can now go viral all over social media. And our constant stream of information of bad things that do happen in the world feeds those thoughts. If there was, in fact, something nefarious going on, I think it’s far more likely they were plotting to steal her purse rather than her kid. But of course that’s not where the hivemind went. We all really need to stop and think before posting, or reposting, things like this. Kudos to sites like Snopes for setting the record straight.

  14. Kim LaCapria March 29, 2017 at 8:25 am #

    True story! I just got to my email and I was like OMG Free Range Kids wrote about my article! 😀 😀 😀

    I spoke with you several years ago before I worked for Snopes and you were the only person who didn’t say awful things to me at the time, but your article was passed to me when I was writing that one by someone else who’d taken note of it and I was like “of course she gets it.”

    So longtime fan here 🙂

  15. Lori March 29, 2017 at 8:46 am #

    Your dismissive reaction to this woman’s account gives your website less credibility. To believe she is lying or perhaps just stupid and say as much on here is worrisome. The fact is there are indeed children who are taken and never returned and what if she was completely correct about what was happening and let her kids wander off? The story may have turned out much different but of course we will never know. What this lady said about listening to your ‘gut instinct’ is excellent advice regardless, would you disagree with that too?

  16. Katrin Geisler March 29, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    These urban legends seem to be globally known. Here in Germany we have a combination of both of them:
    A mom shops at IKEA with her five year old son. While she is talking to someone from the staff, the child disappears. The child is looked after everywhere in the building, all the doors are being locked. At last, he is found at the toilet. He wears another jacket, his hair is cut and he seems drugged.

    In other versions the same story happened at H&M or at a supermarket. IKEA knows about this legend but says that nothing ever happened in one of their stores. Even the police gets phone calls from persons whose friend of a friend knows someone whose child was almost kidnapped.

  17. Michelle March 29, 2017 at 8:50 am #

    Unfortunately, I’ve had the same experience as CrazyCatLady. The new urban myth is that Snopes is a partisan political hack site that lies about everything and you can’t believe anything they say, so even when I counter some ridiculous boogeyman story with a Snopes article that is completely non-political and full of facts and CITATIONS, I just get dismissed by people who want to keep their ignorance.

    Not that it’s surprising. I show people actual scientific studies and get told that those are financially-motivated lies and I need to “do my research.”

  18. SKL March 29, 2017 at 8:52 am #

    “I felt like I was in the presence of two men who wanted to steal my children and do horrible things to them.

    Therefore I chose to camp out in a room for a half hour with them to see what they would do.”

    Uh huh. Sounds convincing to me. What was she waiting for? An offer of money? I mean that would have made her internet story more exciting.

    Seems to me a person who decides to spend a half hour in a room with 2 strange men feels VERY safe.

  19. Jennifer C March 29, 2017 at 9:27 am #

    We have multiple versions of that urban legend too, Katrin–going all the way back to the early ’90s. I’ve heard it with Wal-Mart, Target and even Disneyland.

  20. Jennifer C March 29, 2017 at 9:31 am #

    Lori, the fact is that stranger abductions are an extremely rare occurrence and generally don’t happen in stores with security cameras and lots of witnesses while the mother is right there watching.

  21. Jill March 29, 2017 at 9:34 am #

    Yea this whole story is suspect. Why didn’t she find a security guard, or a manager? And who took the picture on the couch? If you have a phone, instead of taking pictures of them lounging on the couch, she could have called the police or called the store and asked them to send security if she really was too afraid to move. Or she could have pulled a Nancy Drew – she takes one mobile kid, gramma takes the other and they walk off in two directions and see what the men do then.

    Or how about walking right up to the man – being that it was a busy store with security cameras – and just confront him? At the least she offends an innocent shopper. At most she shows him she’s not scared.

    The fact that the mom in the picture is laughing and playing with her kids says she wasn’t actually in fear for her kids’ lives. Fishy!

  22. BB8 March 29, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    For everyone who says this woman was “trusting her gut”, I say again, BULL. Humans are terrible at assessing risk, and if we’ve decided that someone looking at our kids is dangerous, then our “guts” will tell us we’re right. Our guts are AWFUL at assessing risk. After all, people put their kids in cars every day, but won’t let them out of their sight, because their gut says that the car ride is safe and the other is not, when facts clearly state otherwise. People refuse to believe that the thousands of papers on the safety of vaccines are wrong, because their gut tells them so. They believe that GMO’s are dangerous, despite MORE thousands of actual papers, because their gut tells them so. They believe that the earth is flat, that chemtrails are a thing, that David Wolfe is anything but a huckster, because of their gut.

    So quit saying they should trust their gut. That’s what got us in a lot of this mess in the first place.

  23. pentamom March 29, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    Aware: whether she was right or not, exercising caution when you think something is very off, is good. And in my opinion, though there might be an innocent explanation for the men’s behavior, it was strange enough that I would probably decide that I did not need to be near them, and leave the building or go to another part of it that was fuller of other people.

    And that’s where it needs to end. Claiming your kids were “almost trafficked” when you know nothing of the sort is not justified by the fact that the men “might have been” up to know good. Inspiring fear that when you go out in public with your kids, there are people out there waiting to “traffic” them, when you have no idea whether that’s the case, is wrong. Jumping to conclusions and then telling yourself, and the whole world, that your conclusions are fact, is wrong and foolish.

    And that’s the issue here.

  24. K March 29, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    All of these stories include the an element of “I looked right at him,” “I stared him down to let him know we were watching him,” “I talked loudly to the cashier about their weird behavior.” And yet, somehow, none of these supposed criminals hightail it out of there because they’ve been discovered. No one intent on malice – even the ones stupid enough to try it in a crowded big box store – would stick around to steal your kid or steal your purse once they know you’re onto them and watching them. The hubris of thinking that her kids are the only kids in the whole IKEA worth trafficking, so the kidnappers would continue to follow them rather than turning their attention to some other kid whose parent isn’t onto them!

    I’d love to see the security footage and find out her skirt was tucked into her underwear or she had lipstick smeared across her cheek or something and that was the real reason she was attracting extra attention!

  25. pentamom March 29, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    The problem with Snopes is that when they do analysis, rather than simply fact-checking, they do have a bias (as we all do.) This mostly comes into play when they (or other “fact-checking” sites) do an analysis on someone’s policy proposals and determine whether the person’s claims are true or factual. But some facts are, in fact, open to interpretation. On matters where interpretable facts come into play, I don’t completely trust them, either.

    But despite that, I do trust their ability to say, “Hey, this thing you’re afraid of, has never happened. The way we know things happen is different from this.” Or, “This person never said that.” Or, “This thing you said happened, never happened.” Or, “This thing you said happened, happened in a completely different way from what you’re claiming.” When the issue is did or did not/does or does not happen, that’s not really a matter of interpretation. When the issue is “this policy will cause this result” or “this economic number has these implications,” that’s a lot more subjective and open to debate, and IMO fact checkers shouldn’t be in the business of checking on stuff like that.

  26. pentamom March 29, 2017 at 10:23 am #

    Years, ago, I had an older woman up to me at Wegmans and tell me the “kid hidden in the bathroom” story with the dyed hair variant, because I had my back turned to my toddler in the shopping cart that was almost touching me, while I looked at the meat case. She said it was at the Walmart right here in town. (It’s weird how it never made the newspaper or anything, and sounded exactly like the story that everyone else claims happened in their own hometown.) I thanked her for her concern and made some vague gesture toward pacifying her concern until she was out of line of sight. I really don’t know how you’re supposed to pick something out the meat case without turning your back to everything else. I suppose I was supposed to shop one-handed with the kid in my arms the whole time, or something. Oh, well.

  27. Backroads March 29, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    “”Ah… has anyone of you thought of the other much worse side of the coin – “What if she was right?” A living breathing innocent child is not one to gamble with folks. If she just said to herself… there no true hard evidence that these two oddly acting men are up to no good.. lets face it they will not be wearing signs saying..”I’m up to no good!” Noo….. they will only be providing very subtle clues if any at all…..so yes, do you REALLY think it prudent to completely ig-nore that fact that these two guys are consistently and staring at her kids? Better safe than sorry with something that is irreplaceable!””

    She completely missed the mark on “better safe than sorry.” If something has your hackles up yet you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong specifically, you do what you gotta do and remove your children from the situation, get somewhere safe. Hell, I don’t even have a problem with giving security a heads up.

    You don’t declare assumptions on social media.

  28. Christopher Byrne March 29, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    Maybe these suspicious men were looking at the kids wondering why they were so ill-behaved in public and wondering what kind of parent would allow children to be that way when others could see them. I know I’m guilty of that all the time. When I’m in a restaurant, say, with my brothers, we do look at kids. And then we wonder how our parents, who had very strict rules about public behavior, would have reacted.

    Usually, we end up saying, “Can’t you just hear dad saying, ‘If you keep that up, you’re going to wait in the car?'” Or better yet, “Stop it now, or I’ll knock you into next week.”

    Even as adults, we’re all very well behaved in public, so it probably worked. LOL

  29. M March 29, 2017 at 12:13 pm #

    Child traffickers? Not likely. Why? Cameras and witnesses everywhere. No one’s kids are so enticing as that a child trafficker would risk having multiple videos of them stealing babies released to the police and public.

    IF (big IF) this story is even partially true, the most logical explanation was store security was following her around. Why? Because mom fit the description of shop lifting behavior. Shoplifters will use children as a distraction, and that sling is a perfect place to hide loot. (So are strollers, which is why many stores ban them.)

  30. Jessica March 29, 2017 at 12:23 pm #


  31. Jessica March 29, 2017 at 12:27 pm #


    My own parents didn’t say this, but I have a strong memory of being threatened by my elementary-school teachers who were going to “snatch you bald-headed” if we didn’t straighten up! I can’t say that line without laughing, so I’ve never managed to threaten my own child with it.

  32. John B. March 29, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    Quote: “:We attempted to contact Diandra Toyos via Facebook for further information but have not yet received a response.”

    I would imagine, or at least hope, that Ms. Toyos felt a bit foolish when, or if, she learned her story was being addressed by Snopes as ridiculous.

  33. HotInLa March 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm #

    I just had someone send me basically the same thing, except it was a guy at Walmart selling magazine subscriptions. Apparently he wanted to steal children too. The mom could “just tell”, by how he was looking at her kid.

  34. Kirsten March 29, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    I think the men were either part of store security who had been informed of a shopper behaving oddly or suspiciously and they were trying to make sure she didn’t either steal something or damage merchandise. But that depends whether the other report that she and the kids had spread out a play picnic on the furniture. The kids were also jumping on the sofas, by her own admission. The two men could have been managers who were monitoring to make sure nothing got broken or stained. Or maybe the kids were loud and other customers had complained and they were simply keeping an eye on them to see whether the complaints were justified.

  35. John B. March 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm #

    “For everyone who says this woman was “trusting her gut”, I say again, BULL.”


    I fully agree with you here and that kind of claim drives me nuts! Now anytime you read about an attempted child abduction / molestation that turned out authentic but was thwarted by a vigilante who claimed they merely “trusted their gut feelings”, they’re usually given all sorts of accolades and “atta-boys” for doing just that and then everybody else is encouraged to do the same for the protection of children, that being “trust your gut feelings”.

    The problem with this approach is the number of people who “trusted their gut feelings” and were wrong. Of course, I don’t have firm data in front of me but I’m willing to bet that the people who “trusted their gut feelings” turned out wrong much more so than they were right. As a result, innocent people have been shamed and even had their lives turned upside down all because of a false accusation of attempted child abduction / molestation.

  36. SKL March 29, 2017 at 12:54 pm #

    Better safe than sorry is bullshit. Period. Safety always gets weighed against other priorities. And learning how to get along in the world is a priority.

  37. bmommyx2 March 29, 2017 at 1:12 pm #

    I’m glad they got it right this time, but Snopes is not a reliable source of information. You would get an equal answer asking your dog or flipping a coin. They have been caught posting false information. https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2016/12/22/the-daily-mail-snopes-story-and-fact-checking-the-fact-checkers/#6d663f65227f

  38. Peter March 29, 2017 at 1:14 pm #

    What this lady said about listening to your ‘gut instinct’ is excellent advice regardless, would you disagree with that too?

    Well, yes. And no. Let me give you a personal story…

    Years ago, I was walking around lower Manhattan late at night. The streets, while not exactly empty, weren’t crowded. I was in a slightly dicey neighborhood and my “radar” was on. It occurred to me that there were two people who had been following me for the last few blocks and they were slowly catching up to me. My “gut” told me that this was a problem. So I figured the smart thing to do was to get off the street. I saw a bar and I figured I’d have a beer. If they followed me in, at least there’d be a crowd. If I left the bar and they were still out there, I’d go back in try to get the bartender to call me a cab. I had a whole plan about how I’d leave the bar and walk back the way I came for a block, just to see if they started following me again. I was going to outwit these guys.

    So I went into the bar and guess what? They didn’t follow me in. I looked out the window and they just walked past the bar. When I left, they were nowhere to be found. They were just two guys going someplace who happened to be on the same street that I was and happened to be walking a bit faster than I was. Not really an odd circumstance in a city of eight million people.

    Was I wrong to trust my gut? No. But was my gut wrong? Yes. Your gut is sometimes wrong.

    No, there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut. But there is something wrong with deciding that your gut is always right.

    I don’t talk about the night “I almost got mugged in Manhattan but I outwitted the criminals because I’m so smart!” I didn’t call 911 and report to the police that two guys were walking behind me and were obviously out to mug me! I didn’t even mention it to the bouncer at the bar. I have no evidence that those people were out to do me any harm. If anything, I feel a little sheepish that something so mundane made me that nervous. I was still pretty new to New York.

    You feel uncomfortable with “creepy” people looking at your children? Your gut tells you something is dangerous? Okay, understandable. Leave. But don’t give me the whole, “My children and I escaped being kidnapped! I saw some suspicious-looking people and my Mommy radar went off so I got my kids the heck out of there because I have amazing super-powers that can see into the deepest darkest hearts of men.”

    Because, based on the evidence, your gut was wrong and you got worked up over nothing.

  39. Donna March 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm #

    ” do you REALLY think it prudent to completely ig-nore that fact that these two guys are consistently and staring at her kids?”

    She DID ignore it. By her own statement, she sat with this two guys creepily staring at her kids for 30 minutes before she moved on. Apparently even having someone, grandma who was with them I guess, snap a picture in the store. Her only real reaction to any of it was to ignore it in the store and then go home and rant on social media.

  40. Donna March 29, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    “What this lady said about listening to your ‘gut instinct’ is excellent advice regardless, would you disagree with that too?”

    Absolutely. There is nothing wrong with acting on your own gut feeling, even if it turns out to be wrong. Moving on (something she didn’t do for an inordinate amount of time considering what she was so sure was about to happen) maybe sooner than you had planned makes sense. Wrapping up your entire play time in the furniture store (who does that?) and going home makes sense. Going home and telling your spouse or BFF about the strange encounter you had at IKEA is normal. Doing nothing and then posting on social media that you are certain that, barring your keen observation skills, you were definitely going to be the victim of a very specific and very rare crime is what most people, including Lenore, are commenting about.

  41. K March 29, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    What’s interesting, though, Peter, is that your gut could have been right. If those guys were planning to steal your wallet, it was probably because you were alone, on a deserted street, didn’t look intimidating (I’m guessing), and they picked you for an easy target. They weren’t stalking *you*. They didn’t want *your* wallet because it’s monogrammed and they share your initials. They would have been interested in any easy target who looked like he’d be carrying a wallet, and as soon as you turned into the bar, you stopped being an easy target. Why waste what could be 30 minutes, or 3 hours, of their time waiting around for you to leave the bar because you might have $50 in your wallet? They could go find another easy target on another deserted block.

    One thing all of these “almost trafficked” stories share is that the so-called criminals don’t behave like your average, run-of-the-mill criminal who wants to make a buck without exposing himself to too much risk, and instead all take on the characteristics of dedicated stalkers, fixated on particular individuals to the detriment of their own safety and their evil plot’s ability to succeed.

  42. Bmj2k March 29, 2017 at 1:55 pm #

    Trust her gut? Her gut has incredibly specific instincts if she knew they were sex-traffickers as opposed to the two thousand things they could have been, including casting agents. Casting agents sound farfetched to anyone? Is it any more farfetched than sex-traffickers? Trusting your gut does no good if you are already paranoid.

  43. Workshop March 29, 2017 at 1:58 pm #

    After watching “Jaws” my gut says don’t go swimming in the ocean.

    My gut is wrong. Of all the things that could happen in the ocean, getting attacked by a shark is way at the bottom of the list here in the US.

    I’m glad to hear of these success stories.

  44. Cedric Satterfield March 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    She was half right- she trusted her instincts however good or bad they may be (shaped by environment and upbringing) and told someone. Where she erred is when she posted her poor me/lookatme story all over social media and everywhere else, fueling all sorts of conjecture and assumptions. I won’t fault her completely- as someone else said ‘humans’ in general are not good at assessing risk especially in unfamiliar situations-but she is still contributing to the thing we try to combat here with knowledge, that all human interaction is not suspect. She also is contributing to another social ill that I see much more often in the last 10 years with internet and interconnectedness, seeking attention for it. The ‘I need an attaboy’ attitude is where she went off the rails, I think.

  45. James Pollock March 29, 2017 at 2:31 pm #

    The human brain is a wonderfully complex system. It allows routine tasks to be passed to the background where processing still happens, but doesn’t occupy our full attention. You learned how to walk when you were young, and now you don’t have to think about exactly how to walk… it just happens when you want it to. When you were not quite as young, you learned to drive a car, and most people can do this without thinking too hard about it, either. Well, guess what? While you are walking or driving around, your brain is looking for signs of danger whether you’re fully aware of the process, or not. So, if you’re driving along and someone darts out into traffic, you notice this. If you’re walking down the street, and a big-sounding dog starts growling at you, you notice this.
    Now, the human brain is a remarkably powerful pattern-matching computer. It detects patterns in things. That’s how optical illusions work (the brain tricks itself into misinterpreting what it actually sees because what it sees seems to match a pattern when it really doesn’t. It’s also how movies work… the brain sees the series of still photos at 24 frames per second, and fills in the motion in between them.
    OK, that feeling in your “gut” is the back part of your brain trying to signal the front part of your brain that it has noticed something that fits a pattern that is alarming. The things that get us into trouble are A) the patterns our brain sees are conditioned by experience, and B) are still not always accurate. This is one of the factors that makes police work difficult… the police are summoned again and again to locations where criminals and/or mentally ill people are acting either criminally or mentally ill or both. Because they have so much more contact with criminals, they start to see signs of criminality.

    Well, guess what happens to people who don’t have accurate information in their brains to start with? Hollywood tells us that cars that are traffic accidents catch fire and explode. Hollywood uses visual cues to give4 you, the viewer, information about what is happening or about to happen. Real life doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop our brains from seeing something that looks like a Hollywood cue, and then expecting real-life events to follow a Hollywood-style script.

    Our rational minds may know full well that what we see on TV isn’t real, and real-life isn’t like TV. But all that stuff goes into the pattern-matching system all the same.

  46. SKL March 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm #

    Anyone else tempted to go stare down some random moms and kids just to see if we show up on social media later on?

  47. MR March 29, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

    A few days ago a women on a family facebook page posted about being so terrified her kids were going to be kidnapped and asked if any of us were too. I immediately said no, and mentioned actual statistics, the odd risk assesent of fearing stranger kidnapping when she drives her kids everywhere with not a second thought, Free Range Kids and to stop watching the news and scary crime dramas so she would stop feeling so paranoid.

    98 percent of the hundreds of mothers that replied said they were terrified too, and more than 1 in 10 had stories about someone in their family being kidnapped, even more had attempted kidnapping stories with the most recent ones having men from sex trafficking rings trying to get their kids. It was such a large number of people and their stories all sounded like this, paranoia, wild assumptions made with no proof (and to me, like men going about their day in public and mothers accusing them of trying to take their kids). But of course everyone was falling for it. Hysteria.

  48. Filioque March 29, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    SKL, count me in! I’ll see you at Ikea, Target and Wal Mart tonight!

  49. LGB March 29, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Here’s my true Ikea story. My daughter (age 8) and I were winding our way through that hellish labyrinth when a big, jolly man was trying to small talk with my her. He then told her how cute she was and asked for a hug. She slithered and hid behind me. “She’s not interested in a hug,” I told the man curtly. And we left. I then congratulated my daughter on trusting her instincts and reassured her that she did the right thing, that I had the same gut feeling, and that sometimes it’s even more important to set boundaries than to worry about appearing rude.

    The moral of my story?

    There’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut, acting it, and moving away from an uncomfortable situation. There is nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries. There IS *a lot* wrong with turning your discomfort into a piece of wild conjecture in order to publicly accuse others of motives that may or may not have had.

    Note that I didn’t call the police on this guy. Maybe he was the Don Corleone of my city’s Sex Trafficking Ring. Maybe he was a pedophile. Maybe he was just a lonely eccentric guy with poor social skills.

    But feeling uncomfortable around him did not make me entitled to drag in law enforcement or use social media to crowd-source a baseless accusation.

    The most important thing we can do, as parents, is to teach our children how to trust their instincts and feel confident about acting on them. We must allow them to practice the art of discernment. If we act as helicopter parents and do the discernment FOR them, they are ironically more vulnerable to danger. A great book on this topic is Protecting the Gift, by Gavin de Becker.

  50. Joel Casselman March 29, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    I think it is possible that the two men were floor walkers.

  51. Donna March 29, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    Say, for the sake of argument, that her gut instinct was not wrong and these men did have nefarious intentions. Why is the sole nefarious purpose ever considered that they are going to steal children? There are many crimes far more common than snatching babies from busy stores. Looking for a mom to be distracted enough by her kids that he can steal her wallet/purse would be one that jumps instantly to mind.

  52. Alanna March 29, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

    When I spent a few days working in a furniture store as a survey taker I noticed that a few of the couples that came in would split up. The man would just kind of saunter around doing some light browsing while the women went off and did the actual shopping. It seemed to me that some men just didn’t like shopping for furniture. Could it be that that was what these two men were doing? Just waiting for their wives?

  53. donald March 29, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    It’s common knowledge that a diet of mostly fast food and ice cream will have a serious impact on your body. This is so well known that it’s hard to image someone that doesn’t know this. How can someone be ignorant of this? What you feed your head also makes a difference. This is why I go on and on about drama junkies. There are so many people that soak up drama, fear, and social injustice for the sake of entertainment and then believing that it won’t alter their interpretation of the world in any way. (FOR THE WORSE) This is the same thing as eating mostly junk food and not realizing that it will affect your body! (FOR THE WORSE)

    This is why I keep saying that a great deal of today’s entertainment is similar to cigarettes. They are both:
    1. Addicting
    2. Are hazardous to you health (Drama = bad for mental health)
    3. Passive smoking is bad for children and so is passive craziness

    The demand for drama not only created NCIS, Criminal Minds and Bones but it also turned the evening news into ‘infotainment’!

  54. donald March 29, 2017 at 9:24 pm #

    I agree 100% with James. (this by it’self is news)
    This fits in well with my drama junkies post. This also fits in well with a previous post that I made about brain priming.

    If you are given a word problem of SO_P and have to guess the missing letter, your surroundings will affect your guess. If you’re in the kitchen, your guess will more likely be ‘soup’. If you’re in the laundry, your guess will more likely be ‘soap’.

    If you have a habit of watching NCIS and Bones, when you see a man in a white van, suspicion will come to mind.

  55. KumquatWriter March 29, 2017 at 9:26 pm #

    Well, you can buy anything ELSE at Ikea…

  56. Derek W Logue of OnceFallen.com March 29, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    “We all know what HE wants…”

    Cheap tacky furniture?

  57. JJ March 29, 2017 at 10:37 pm #

    Look how beautiful we are in this photo! And also, I am such a great mom. I entertained my kids, evaded kidnappers, warned mommies everywhere, and pretend-sofa shopped all on one day!

  58. donald March 29, 2017 at 11:37 pm #

    If you were to get electrocuted, the shock would force your muscles to grip the wire even tighter. Decades back, my father had an incident where he was using a drill (the case was metal) and it shocked him. He gripped the drill tighter. Although he tried, he couldn’t let it go. He, therefore, swung his arm like a baseball bat at the wall. The impact knocked the drill out of his hand! If he didn’t do that he would have died!

    I’m telling you this because worst first thinking can be the same. A thought can be so horrific that we’re unable to let it go. Rational thinking may try to show how unlikely/ridiculous the thought is. However, as with being electrocuted, you can’t let go of the thought and rational thinking is vetoed/overruled.

  59. pentamom March 30, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    “No, there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut. But there is something wrong with deciding that your gut is always right.”

    This. Now, you shouldn’t trust your gut over logic and reason, if logic and reason can *clearly* tell you that nothing’s wrong. But lacking solid facts on which to form a judgment, and particularly when there’s no significant downside to letting your gut tell you to get the heck out of there, it’s rarely wrong to trust your gut.

    But it would be stupid to assume that because your gut told you something, that thing *must be true* and you can then go on social media and tell the entire world that what your gut told you, is *what actually happened.*

  60. Maria March 30, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Thank you for your voice of reason Leonore! Somebody shared this story in a parents FB-group and it just didn’t make sense to me.
    Why were the men following two kids who were closely watched by two adults while there surely were countless other children at Ikea that day and some of the parents probably more distracted then the mom who wrote the article?
    Why did they just stare at the family for ages, giving the mom enough time time to notice them, memorize their faces, maybe even call the police/ shop security? How would that help them abducting the kids?
    I also don’t agree with the “better safe than sorry”-approach in situations like this. I’ve read similar stories on Snopes and it seems like some women contact the police just because somebody says their baby is cute or looks at them a bit too long at the supermarket. Probably not the best use of police time.
    Stories like this also create an atmosphere of fear.
    In one of the comments under the original Ikea-abduction-post a mom said how she was guilty of sometimes letting her 14-year-old and her 5-year-old roam the supermarket together while she was filling her shopping trolley. She said she wouldn’t let them do it again. A 14-year-old? Really?
    I live in Germany where 6-year-old first graders go to school by themselves, sometimes crossong big roads.
    I always considered myself over-protective because I couldn’t let my first grader do that, but I definitely wouldn’t worry about a 14-year-old roaming the supermarket without my supervision, even if they had a younger sibling in tow.

  61. Roger the Shrubber March 30, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    MR – you can’t reason a person out of an opinion that they didn’t reason themselves into.

  62. lollipoplover March 30, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Has anyone had this article passed around on social media yet:


    These “Give me a pat on the back” for being a super parent, and being “certain” that this was a potential kidnapping get me so annoyed (and help promote blogs). I wish these moms would consider creative writing pursuits instead.

  63. James March 30, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    “What this lady said about listening to your ‘gut instinct’ is excellent advice regardless, would you disagree with that too?”

    “Gut instinct” is a type of Type 1 logic (type “Straw Vulcan” into YouTube to see a talk on this topic). Type 1 logic is incredibly useful, because it gives you extremely fast answers. Ever drive a car and have to make split-second decisions about how to react? That’s another expression of Type 1 logic.

    (Type 2 logic is the more formal type, where you sit down and list out reasons and arguments and counter-arguments. It’s what most people think of as logic.)

    Type 1 logic has limits, though. It sacrifices precision and accuracy for speed. The conclusions may be completely off-base. And it’s difficult to fix, because you don’t consciously know what data are used to draw the conclusion–it’s an automatic sub-routine that you’re not consciously aware of. This can be overcome with training, but it’s a long process.

    The problem, though, is when you train Type 1 logic improperly. As was mentioned up-thread, watching shows like Criminal Minds, Bones, NCIS, and the like trains the pattern-recognizing portions of our brains–and our Type 1 logic–to assume the worst. We’ve over-exposed our brains to the circumstances surrounding vanishingly rare events, and thus have trained our brains to draw conclusions which are astronomically unlikely.

    This by no means means that we should ignore gut feelings–Type 1 logic is powerful and useful! However, like any tool, we need to be aware of its limitations and how to properly use it.

  64. Buffy March 30, 2017 at 10:38 am #

    According to these blog posts, and all the responses to them saying “This nearly happened to us too!!”, there sure must be a tremendous amount of would-be kidnappers lurking in public out there.

    Geez, if you want to commit a felony, steal a car. You don’t have to feed it, change its diaper, listen to it cry, etc. Much simpler.

  65. Donna March 30, 2017 at 11:05 am #

    “According to these blog posts, and all the responses to them saying “This nearly happened to us too!!”, there sure must be a tremendous amount of would-be kidnappers lurking in public out there.”

    And they are all the worst kidnappers ever! They have never actually succeeded in kidnapping a child. They spontaneously pick a child that they have to have at all costs while buying eggs in the grocery store with no planning whatsoever. They are all very easily identified as kidnappers by ordinary women with no investigative training whatsoever. Probably because they all sit and stare at their targets for 30 minutes. They choose only the most attentive mothers and not one of the countless kids accompanying distracted parents. They appear to decide on a single target and remained fixated on that target through changes in location and despite clearly being made by the mother. Once they give up on that one obviously immensely desirable child, they don’t seek another target and instead just go home. They never learn from their obvious mistakes and get any better at this kidnapping scheme of theirs.

  66. Donna March 30, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    lollipoplover – That story doesn’t even make factual sense. Why the heck would the neighbor, who not under the influence of pain, agree to pick up your children for school when he was 40 minutes away? Why would he not mention to you that he was 40 minutes away when you asked him to pick up your children for school? Why the heck would you call your child T-Dawg?

  67. James Pollock March 30, 2017 at 11:46 am #

    “And they are all the worst kidnappers ever! They have never actually succeeded in kidnapping a child.”

    (You owe the kidnappers an apology.)

  68. Workshop March 30, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    If I were evil, I’d respond to the posts/articles/comments saying “They know where you live. They put a bug on your car to track you. If you look under your car, near driver’s side rear wheel, you’ll find something that looks like a nut. It doesn’t actually attach to anything, but the outside will be covered in dirt or corrosion. They glued it on so it won’t fall off. My cousin’s friend had this happen to him. They came and took every electronic device from his house while he was working at Bank of America. So not only did they get his television, but his computer too. Once they had that, they cleaned out his bank account and had almost hacked into Bank of America’s systems. Luckily my cousin’s friend notified BoA of the theft, and they locked down everything in time. He found the device by luck, because he got rear-ended in a minor traffic accident and the technicians didn’t know why a nut was placed on that spot in the car.”

    But I’m not evil.

  69. Buffy March 30, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

    Donna, you crack me up!

  70. Beth March 30, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    And also, regarding that scary mommy story, I hate that whole “adults never ask kids for help” thing. They do, sometimes (“hey kids playing outside, have you seen a blond kid on a blue bike? He’s late getting home.” “Hey kid at the library who’s the same age as my grandson, have you read a good book lately that I can get him for his next visit?”)

    The better rule is “don’t go anywhere with a stranger”, which would have applied in this case.

    And I’m not convinced that a hospital ER is a usual place for kidnapper groups to gather.

  71. pentamom March 30, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    “And I’m not convinced that a hospital ER is a usual place for kidnapper groups to gather.”

    That’s because you don’t think like a canny kidnapper. Canny kidnappers know that hospital ERs frequently have children who have to wait for a ride for a long period of time, sitting outside unattended. Can YOU suggest a better place to case? Can you?

  72. lollipoplover March 30, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    @Donna- these stories never do make factual sense.

    But at least now we know for *certain* that kidnappers are near hospital ERs and if they start calling out for T-Dawg, we can totally verify this story as true.

  73. Jessica March 30, 2017 at 4:50 pm #

    OMG all the local women claiming some man was following them around the store(which, he some how managed to be in the aisles before she got there and next to her car when she emerged from said store, so it’s psychic child traffickers??) are all over. SO many people had “creepy men” trying to take their children in public in broad daylight while they were with mom.
    There’s literally no talking reason to them.
    Yes, we do have an ACTUAL trafficking problem here in Oregon, but it’s not little kids, it’s young girls and a some young boys.. post pubescent runaways typically who get lured. Not kids swiped from mom’s shopping cart.
    It’s almost like they enjoy being afraid.

  74. Maria March 31, 2017 at 2:49 am #

    Another thing that doesn’t make sense about this Ikea mom’s behaviour – if she was so terrified about those men trying to abduct her kids, why does she, after the “scary incident”, post pictures of her kids on the internet, along with her own full name?

  75. Sarah March 31, 2017 at 3:15 am #

    Lenore, I read your NYP article about this incident – and loved it. Thank you for summing up why fear-mongering posts are wrong. Seriously, like morally wrong.

  76. pentamom March 31, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    I think the T-Dawg thing must be her “Internet” name for the kid. I know quite a few people who refer to their kids online with something like first initial and age (e.g., J12) because they think somehow a first name will endanger their kids or violate their privacy in a way that their first initial and age plus their mom’s last name will not. He’s probably Tyler or something.

  77. dancing on thin ice March 31, 2017 at 1:15 pm #

    @ bmommyx2 A gossipy click bait article about Snopes founder’s divorce is hardly something to cite as proof that they post false information.
    The contributor (not a staff reporter) does a lot of speculation before getting to where they contacted Snopes for a comment.
    The reason parts of the story can’t be discussed as due to the conditions of his divorce settlement are quickly dismissed by this hack.
    I suspect a check of server logs or some other method may find that some of these posts are trolls looking to discredit those that deal with facts like Snopes and FRK.

  78. Beth March 31, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    I have always felt that Snopes is very well-researched.

  79. Maria April 1, 2017 at 7:43 am #

    Love your comment about the useless kidnappers, Donna! 😉

    “And they are all the worst kidnappers ever! They have never actually succeeded in kidnapping a child.”

    I just did a Google search for similar stories in Germany (where I live).
    Here, the popular Ikea abduction myth seems to be the kid, who after being snatched off his parents is being taken to a bathroom, where the kidnappers dye his hair and change his clothes (so he becomes less recognisable).

    There allegedly have been several cases where someone’s mom’s neighbour’s colleague’s grandchild was found in a Ikea bathroom with dyed hair and new clothes.

    In all these cases the criminals somehow failed to achieve their actual goal, i.e. actually abduct the child.
    All they manage to do is to dye their hair (which must take a little while, strange that nobody notices them), but then they just change their mind and leave the kid behind (???).

    Despite this not making any sense whatsoever many panicky mums happily take the paranoia bait and freak out.

  80. Andrea D. April 2, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    I was at a birthday party yesterday and one mom asked another if she heard about the “attempted kidnapping” nearby. I asked if it was actual or perceived. They said something about a van, and that a grandparent “thought it was.” I didn’t have a chance to get into it but I thought “Uh huh.” I just searched local news for anything about it and there is nothing. At least our local news isn’t jumping on the bandwagon. *eyeroll*

  81. Jade April 3, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    What’s wrong with you people? You’re naive if you think this stuff doesn’t happen or is a conspiracy. It’s your making light of situations like this that allows these kinds of things to happen. It happens all the time, in public, with parents around, with other people around.

    Here’s a link to a situation just like this in Florida! Though you pathetic people probably have some sort of justication for it


    And that’s just one reported instance. These things happen right under your nose. Maybe if you took your self righteous noses out of the air for one minute you would notice. I hope this never happens to any of your children or grandchildren because of your stupidity. Say what you want, thats what it is. Stupidity.

  82. Jade April 3, 2017 at 3:38 pm #


    It doesn’t happen right? Yeah, okay maybe not at ikea. Get out of your bubbles

  83. James Pollock April 3, 2017 at 3:51 pm #

    “What’s wrong with you people? You’re naive if you think this stuff doesn’t happen or is a conspiracy. It’s your making light of situations like this that allows these kinds of things to happen. It happens all the time, in public, with parents around, with other people around.

    Here’s a link to a situation just like this in Florida! Though you pathetic people probably have some sort of justication for it


    This citation is one to yet another case where no child was kidnapped and placed into sex-trafficking. You’re correct that this does, in fact, happen all the time. My daughter was not kidnapped-and-sex-trafficked every single day, like clockwork. Today, she goes to Ikea alone, because I can’t stand the place.

  84. James Pollock April 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    It doesn’t happen right? Yeah, okay maybe not at ikea. Get out of your bubbles”

    Notice what’s not on the list?
    First-degree kidnapping.

    So your example to prove that kidnapping happens “all the time” includes a guy who was convicted of pimping but not kidnapping.

  85. pbird April 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm #

    I would imagine most men at Ikea are bored out of their minds and would be looking at a bug if one crawled by.

  86. James April 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    “I hope this never happens to any of your children or grandchildren because of your stupidity.”

    First, given the tone, I have little doubt that you’d be gleefully telling me about how this is all my fault if my kid got kidnapped. Why would a woman wear a short skirt if she wasn’t asking for it, amIright?

    Second, you provided, what, two examples? Sure, it CAN happen. No one has denied that it’s within the realm of possible human behavior. The question is, is it LIKELY IN THE SCENARIO DESCRIBED? The capitalized parts are the ones you ignored. In the scenario described there is precisely zero evidence that anything like kidnapping was going to occur–much less sex trafficking.

    This isn’t a question of whether it happens at all. It’s a question of logic, pure and simple. Given the data, can the woman reasonably draw this conclusion? The inevitable answer is “No”. There is insufficient data to justify that conclusion.

    If that means I’m self-righteous or that my nose is in the air, so be it. Logic is our best tool for evaluating reality. Full stop. Emotions, fears, and paranoia are not. Full stop.

  87. David N. Brown April 10, 2017 at 10:53 pm #

    First read about your article on Snopes. As someone involved in disability activism, my immediate reaction was that one or both individuals sounded like people on the autism spectrum. My own experience on this vein is that there’s no problem being an adult without a kid on a toy aisle, where the age-neutral collectibles and building sets get their own subsections. The only time I have run into hostile staff was one time when I wandered into a chain “fashion” store, just because I was stuck waiting for public transportation and had been looking for a minor item. I was literally stopped by security at the door. The happy ending is, I finally got what I wanted for a buck at W@lmart.