A man have to follow a police officer during a police operation across Germany in connection with illegal human trafficking networks, in Leipzig, Germany Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (Sebastian Willnow/dpa via AP)
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When not detecting intelligence threats to oil rigs and dams, Sergio Caltagirone spends his spare time hunting a different kind of predator – traffickers trading in human beings, from war-torn Syria to sleepy U.S. suburbs. The Seattle-based computer scientist, who previously worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, Microsoft and NASA, is one of a new breed of digital hacker sleuths who are saving lives by tracking down traffickers and rescuing victims on the internet.Human trafficking is among the world's largest international crime industries, with about 25 million people trapped in forced labor generating illicit profits of $150 billion a year – and one which is moving increasingly online.The U.S.-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in 2017 that almost three-quarters of suspected child trafficking reports it received from the public involved the sex advertising website Backpage.com.Digital evidence gleaned from visa blacklists, bitcoin transactions and sex ads can help to bust traffickers by predicting where victims might go, via which routes and who is likely to buy or sell them, experts say.One of the routes GEN is tracking closely is that of people moving to Eastern Europe from Syrian refugee camps, often in the hope of finding lucrative jobs advertised on fake websites.
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