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It can be a scary world out there, especially for women. You hear all kinds of stories about people who have been stalked or kidnapped, and it’s hard to sort out what’s true and what’s a War of the Worlds style mass hysteria. Social media is filled with dire warnings and safety tips.

One such video went viral last January and is still racking up views. In the interest of not adding undue noise, let me preface this by saying that police and trafficking experts have unequivocally stated that there is no evidence that what follows is actually a tactic used to kidnap people.

First, Tiktok user @ice.lemon.water posted a concerned video of cars in a shopping center that had something tied around their door handles.

@ice.lemon.water

We thought it was a joke at first until we found the second one 😳 #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #scary #viral #trending #BoseAllOut

♬ Scary – Background Sounds

The first example was too far away for me to get a good look, but the second, to my untrained eye, looks like nothing more than curly ribbon.

The user, however, was concerned that something nefarious was afoot.

A couple of months later, another TikTok’r named Reece posted a response video.

One of the oldest tricks in the book.

Reece warned viewers, particularly women, that it was actually wire tied around door handles, often used because wire takes longer to dislodge and will distract you for longer.

(If we’re going for time, however, then I think they’d do best to use tangled earphones.)

@achunkyguy

#stitch with @ice.lemon.water one of the oldest tricks in the book #fy #fyp #fypシ #foryou #foryoupage #fortheladies #forthegirls

♬ Scary – Background Sounds

In his video, Reece admits that he doesn’t know of any actual reports of human trafficking that resulted from anything being tied to a driver’s door handle, but it could happen, and so people should be aware.

Similar stories have circulated the web, such as potential victims being marked with zip ties, but both Politifact and Snopes have debunked them, with Snopes stating:

Hoaxes purporting to warn about seemingly benign tactics of “sex traffickers” to abduct women and children are increasingly common and often go viral, as in this case.

And while police agree that people should remain vigilant and aware, they worry about these viral stories. They can be a distraction for both police and civilians from what is actually happening in the world.

Image credit: Timothee Magli via Unsplash

As Bored Panda shared from the Polaris Project:

“By far the most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it always—or often—involves kidnapping or otherwise physically forcing someone into a situation.

In reality, most human traffickers use psychological means such as tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims.

So just what was happening in the parking lot of the original TikTok video?

One commenter believed there had been a drive-through birthday party, which totally makes sense these days.

In general it’s good advice to stay aware. But try not to spread panic.

What’s your take on those car doors? Tell us in the comments.