In a viral TikTok, a shopper said he and his wife noticed what they thought was a floor walker following a 19-year-old woman in a department store. But after looking a bit closer, the couple discovered the man might have had a more sinister motive: Human trafficking.
TikTok user Terry (@thebaldguy33) issued the “holiday PSA” in a video posted on Nov. 11, which has since garnered more than 2.3 million views. In the video, Terry said he and his wife encountered suspicious activity during a recent shopping trip in Tupelo, Mississippi.
“Not a very large town, but a good-sized community,” he said. “And we were in one of the department stores there. And I noticed a guy that was roaming around, and I thought he was probably part of their loss prevention.”
But then, Terry said the man got in line behind a young woman who appeared to be around 18 to 20 years old. “We get in line behind him, and he noticed us and was very nice and said, ‘Y’all go ahead, I’m not done shopping,'” the TikToker said. “So he gets out of line and kind of goes towards the end of the registers where you walk out. And we noticed that he won’t take his eyes off this girl.”
Terry said the man’s behavior concerned him and his wife. “She was leaving, and my wife looked at me, and she said, ‘Go.’ And I gave her the credit card, and I followed the girl out, trying not to look like the creeper dude that we were just watching. Well, when we walk outside, he puts the stuff he had in his hands down, walks outside, and then gets on his phone.”
As Terry watched from a safe distance, the woman walked to her car, put away her shopping bags, turned back toward the shopping center, and walked into another store. “I go to the car. I pull mine kind of closer to the curb, and I notice that there’s another car just kind of sitting about three or four spots down from her car,” he said. “Car’s on. Lights on. There’s a guy with a hoodie kind of leaning over the driver’s side.”
Terry said that’s when he decided to follow the woman into the store and warn her about the suspicious individuals. “I kind of kept my distance and said, ‘Ma’am, I just wanted to let you know that I saw a guy there–that made me and my wife feel very uncomfortable–kind of watching you.'”
The woman reportedly revealed that she also noticed the stranger watching her, and that’s why she ducked into another store. Terry said he offered to escort the woman to her car. “I said, ‘Let me go get my wife. We’ll walk you out to your car,'” he stated. “So we go outside, my wife is there, we get her, and we all kind of walk to her car together. She gets in, she calls her mom, and she leaves.”
Terry said the man in the car he noticed earlier was still leaning out of his vehicle the entire time the woman was preparing to leave, though he wasn’t facing her. “You’re never gonna convince me that that guy inside that department store wasn’t watching her and the people he called weren’t the people in that car,” he said. “I know there’s a lot out there going on about trafficking and stuff. It happens in small towns, too.”
He asked that everyone be aware of their surroundings and refrain from going out alone, particularly in the evening. “Please don’t go out alone. And if you are out and about, pay attention. Don’t be a weirdo, but don’t let something happen that you could prevent.”
@thebaldguy33 Please be aware! This coukd have been a terrible situation!! #Holidays #PSA #TraffickingAwareness #Love ♬ Love – Revember
The Tiktoker also said he called the store to inform them about the situation. The store reportedly told Terry they would alert security and the police about the incident.
In the comments section, a viewer claiming to be the young woman’s mother wrote, “This was about my Daughter!! I’m crying watching this!! Thank you and your wife for saving her life!!!! I can’t express enough how grateful I am.” The comment has been liked more than 30,000 times.
Other viewers expressed relief and recounted similarly harrowing experiences.
“This happened to me about a month ago at the grocery store in broad day light, First place I drove was the sheriffs office after calling my husband,” wrote one commenter.
Another said, “Thank you for sharing this message! We’re all at risk! I’m 56 & was attacked in my home by a handyman. We’re never safe !”
One viewer wrote, “Thank you for not being a bystander!”
“As a mom of girls, 17-21 year old, THANK YOU for watching out for her!” another commented.
Terry isn’t the first TikToker to issue a PSA about human trafficking. This summer, a woman said she “marks” her vehicle to trick traffickers into thinking she’s already been targeted. Another TikToker warned against helping suspicious individuals at gas stations.
The Daily Dot reached out to Terry via TikTok direct message for comment.