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Facebook warnings about door-to-door sex traffickers debunked

Deputies say residents were at home, with unlocked doors, when Searles let himself in, and starting stealing

Facebook warnings about door-to-door sex traffickers debunked

By Liz Kotalik. CREATED Aug 13, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -  A door bell ring isn't something you hear much at 9:30 p.m. on  a weeknight.

"I was holding my baby," KGUN9 viewer David told us. "I opened the door, and it was a younger woman. She was foreign and had a very thick accent."

Wearing a badge and a backpack, she began her pitch: She is here for the summer to sell children's books.
She tried to make her way inside, and David told her to stay where she was.   
He listened to the rest of her pitch, said no thank you, and she left.
 
But days later, his wife texted him a screenshot of her Facebook page.
 
It was a status one of her friend's posted about a door-to-door child sex trafficking ring, covered up by foreign men and women claiming to sell children's books while asking personal questions.
 
"[It was] almost word for word about what happened here."
 
It's a story all over Facebook, so we went to the Pima County Sheriff's Department for answers.

Deputy Jesus Banuelos told us, they've gotten calls and have seen it on Facebook.
 
"We've come to find out that this company is an actual company that is in business."
 
The company is called Southwestern Advantage.
 
In part, it gives foreign exchange students an opportunity to sell children's educational books to help pay for their schooling.
 
Southwestern Advantage has been around for more than 100 years, and has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
 
"It's something we've been trying to get a handle on," Southwestern Advantage Communications Director Trey Campbell told Nine On Your Side, "but it's tough with Facebook because it knows no borders."
 
Not only did the word spread in Tucson, but also in Phoenix, cities in Texas, Oklahoma, and a number of other states.
 
People have been sharing their accounts of the solicitors asking personal questions like what kind of car they drove and when they won't be home.
 
Campbell said he understands why these questions would cause concern, and they've alerted their students to try and cut out the miscommunication.
 
But authorities say, still answer your door with caution, because you never know what sinister stories some may try to sell.
 
Campbell says if you have problems with one of Southwestern Advantage's students, to give him a call at 1-888-602-7867.
 
If you ever feel like someone is at your door who is dangerous, call 9-1-1 immediately. 
 

 

Liz Kotalik

Liz Kotalik

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Liz Kotalik is so proud to work in her home state of Arizona with her KGUN9 family. She anchors the 7 a.m. morning show "GMT Extra" on the CW Tucson every weekday, and also reports for later newscasts.