It seems like every time some dumb social media trend dies, it’s not actually gone for good. It’s only gone dormant in order to return later and clog up our screens another day. That’s what has happened in the infamous (not real) case of child traffickers using stick figure decals to mark potential victims.
The decals were kind of a big deal for a minute, and it feels like they were plastered on every other car a few years ago, but their popularity seemed lost overnight in my town, maybe in the wake of those rumors that drivers were unwillingly volunteering information to child abductors and sex traffickers.
The TikTok user, dutchintheusa, quoted from Yahoo below is a self-proclaimed father of twins, and I would be remiss If I didn’t say that this privacy advocate probably shouldn’t be volunteering that kind of info — whether through social media or stick figure decals. The user helpfully points out the meaning of the cryptic child trafficker codes, per Yahoo:
In his video, @dutchintheusa starts by saying, “Here’s something you might not know, but could save your life.”
As he stands in front of a car with the words “1F” written on the back window, he explains, “If you ever see this on the back of your car, someone is marking you.”
In the next shot, he stands in front of a car with “1F” written in the dust of a different window. “It’s marked with ‘1F,’ which stands for ‘one female,’ and it’s marked in dust.”
In the final shot, he stands in front of a car sporting the popular window decal depicting a stick figure family. “And let’s not put these on our car and provide a shopping list for child predators,” he states.
I actually never made much of these stickers until Jason Torchinsky himself brought them to my attention seven years ago, and oh, God, what hellish stick figure time loop have we found ourselves in?
Luckily, in the interim period between Torchinsky’s article and now, the good folks over at Snopes saw fit to debunk this dumb rumor, summing up this secret code as anecdotal at best, as Yahoo News describes:
According to the fact-checking website Snopes, the “1F” story is false, and nothing more than a viral social media rumor.
They report, “When we try to boil down this rumor to its origins, we see that the claim is based on something someone saw on Facebook, written by a person claiming that their friend had heard from a stranger that the code ‘1f1b’ was being used by sex traffickers to flag future targets.”
Snopes concludes, “In other words, this rumor doesn’t exactly have credible origins.”
If Snopes doesn’t quite cut it for you, Yahoo News also cites a police department who concluded the same thing as the online fact-checkers. Which is to say you can rest easy knowing that the sex traffickers on the lookout for stick figure decals are not actually out there.
If there’s one thing that the TikTok user gets right, it’s that you probably should stay away from those lame decals. If you’re being extra careful, maybe also stay away from apps like TikTok that really are invading your privacy and learning things about your kids.