Tinder Dating App Used To Recruit Sex Trafficking Victims, Two Men & One Woman Charged By Police

The Tinder logo is displayed on a smartphone screen.
Tero Vesalainen / shutterstock

Three individuals have been charged by Toronto police for allegedly using the Tinder service to entrap a victim for the purposes of luring them into the sex trade. According to the Toronto Sun, police began investigating the charges early in December of 2018 after a woman came forward with some damning information.

Claiming that she had begun dating a 23-year-old man over Tinder — and then was shortly threatened and harassed if she did not bow to his sexual demands — she spoke to police about the matter. A second unidentified female victim described to the police a rather disturbing situation which she had been subjected, and the Toronto Sun relays the details.

“Cops say a second women [sic] met a man, 19, on the dating app and he procured her into the sex trade. They say he took her to a Mississauga area hotel, snapped photos of her ‘in various stages of undress,’ and posted ads for sexual services on the classified ad site Leolist. Police allege he made all the dates for her sexual services and forced her to turn over all her earnings by assaulting her and threatening her family. They say he introduced her to a man and woman, both 23, and the woman took photos of her and posted ads on Leolist. She forced the victim to hand all her earnings to the two men, according to police.”

As it turns out, the 23-year-old man, Joshua Hamblett, was the common element in both cases and was working with two other individuals in a criminal “trio.” Twenty-three-year-old Sashauna Wilkins and 19-year-old Keagan Prophete joined Hamblett in facing charges for human trafficking. All three persons charged currently reside in Brampton, Ontario. Keagan Prophete also faces further charges of uttering threats and assault.

Sex trafficking on Tinder and other similar dating apps has been an ongoing concern since said apps first achieved popularity alongside the common consumer adoption of smartphones. Marketing company eightytwenty was recently commissioned by the Immigration Council of Ireland to produce a comprehensive digital campaign promoting awareness of sex-trafficking and human trafficking that is being conducted via Tinder.

Populating a number of false profiles describing potential trafficking victims — and proliferating them widely throughout the broader algorithm — eightytwenty aims to show users how easy it can be to participate in the dark side of the sex trade. Romantic hopefuls, browsing idly or intently, would encounter these profiles. Digging deeper into their bios, users would be confronted with harrowing stories — a serious, sobering, and intimate message.

Spokesperson Cathal Gillen of eightytwenty elaborated on the purpose of the Tinder campaign.

“This is the first use of Tinder in Ireland for a campaign of this nature and one of the first globally. Tinder has become an extremely popular app in Ireland, and it provides us with a unique, innovative and stand out way of communicating to men the issues faced by women involved in sex trafficking.”