Human trafficking is a huge problem the world over. According to DoSomething.org, “It’s estimated that internationally there are between 20 million and 40 million people in modern slavery today. Assessing the full scope of human trafficking is difficult because so cases so often go undetected, something the United Nations refers to as ‘the hidden figure of crime.’”
Law enforcement agencies the world over have long sought ways to help curb the amount of human trafficking, and the United States is no exception. In Texas, the legislature is attempting to stop human trafficking efforts with ATMs.
Cash and Criminals
Criminals by and large utilize cash for their nefarious acts. Since it is largely untraceable, cash provides a certain amount of anonymity for criminals. In clandestine massage parlors, salons, and other places where human trafficking occurs, criminals often provide a “white-label” ATM for customers to be able to withdraw cash to pay for their “services.”
A “white-label” ATM is an ATM that is privately owned, and not owned by a bank.
How ATMs Play a Part in Stopping Human Trafficking
Texas House Bill 2629 is pushing back on the use of privately-owned ATMs for criminal purposes. The bill would require private ATM owners to register their ATMs, giving law enforcement a greater window into the realm of human trafficking’s financial operations.
The bill, which requires the name of the ATM operator and the business where it is placed, is not meant to punish ATM operators, as ATMs are a necessary part of a cash-based society. The bill is, however, aimed at making the burden low for ATM operators, but easy for law enforcement to identify criminal enterprises by helping them to see who is profiting from these criminal businesses.
ATM operators would need to register the ATM and pay a fee of no more than $200 per year.
Backed by Law Enforcement
Law enforcement groups are excited about the prospect of ATMs providing much needed information to help stop human trafficking. A KWTX story last month reported that, “McLennan County human trafficking Detective Joseph Scaramucci said the [ATM] registry would give investigators a powerful tool by arming them with information. ‘It’ll provide a link for law enforcement to follow from the point of sale to the trafficker,’ Scaramucci said. ‘Most men are not going to swipe a credit card or debit card knowing that their spouse is going to find it, and/or that law enforcement has the ability to track it and hold them accountable.’
“That accountability is something Scaramucci said can lead to fewer victims in the future. ‘The most effective means for targeting trafficking isn’t even trafficking laws. It’s finding the money. Following the money, and targeting traffickers by their money,’ Scaramucci said.
ATMs are here to help.