The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a public service announcement last week warning that criminals are using rideshare vehicles to abduct children.
"Since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement received several reports of rideshare services being used to facilitate child abduction," the agency said.
According to the warning, "criminal actors" are using rideshare services because there is a "lower likelihood of detection and ease of facilitation."
The law enforcement agency added that criminals believe ridesharing vehicles allow them more privacy than public transportation. Additionally, the services are easy to book and more direct than public transportation.
"While other modes of transportation were used during the pandemic, the privacy of rideshare services allowed criminal actors to obfuscate potential witness identification and afforded them direct transportation," the FBI stated. "Further, criminal actors benefit from past and current pandemic guidance, such as mask wearing and social distancing in rideshare vehicles, as it provides additional security."
According to the FBI, the driver and passenger security protocols for ridesharing services are not as strict as traditional forms of transportation. Therefore, criminals believe they are less likely to get caught.
"The FBI identified a trend of criminal actors using rideshare vehicles to abduct minor victims," the public announcement noted.
The FBI cited an incident in April involving a 16-year-old boy who requested a rideshare service from Portland, Oregon, to Rockport, Texas. At one point during the ride, the driver of the vehicle offered the child a drink.
The boy later woke up inside a home approximately 20 miles away from his requested destination. He walked to a neighbor's house to call authorities, and the driver was later arrested.
The FBI cited another rideshare incident in February involving a father and his 7-year-old son in Mexico City. During the ride, the father asked the driver to pull over at a flower stand. When the father exited the vehicle, the driver drove off with the child still inside.
The boy was able to call his mother and share his location. The parents chased after the vehicle and recovered their child. They kept the driver from escaping, and authorities arrested him.
During another incident in February 2021, a man ordered a rideshare vehicle to transport a child from her California home. The adult male met the minor on social media and groomed her to send sexual content. He persuaded her to sneak out of her home and get into a rideshare vehicle with him.
He ordered the rideshare vehicle to bring them to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Washington, D.C. The man forced the minor to wear a disguise and pretend she was mute to avoid detection. Authorities recovered the girl and charged the man with child abduction, soliciting child sexual abuse materials, and meeting a minor for sex.
The FBI stated that the public service announcement was created to increase awareness of rideshare services being used to target minors for child abduction. The agency noted that the "high impact" crimes are rare.