CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Is a religious group that’s working outside Charlotte stores really the front for a sex-trafficking ring? That’s the question the VERIFY team is getting to the bottom of.
Concerning posts have been circling the Charlotte social feeds.
Two posts by empower_clt go into grave detail warning women to stay away from “nicely dressed women who approach you in public places wanting to speak about God.”
The posts also say women are using The Bible to draw you in, and say encounters have happened at the Northlake Mall and Rivergate Shopping Center Target.
The key phrase people are mentioning during these encounters is “God The Mother.” It turns out that phrase has popped up in social media claims a lot.
In Kentucky and at a college in New Jersey, incidents were investigated by police.
If you dig in even further, “God The Mother” is linked to the World Mission Society Church of God. It’s a Korean Church that has campuses across the country, including here in Charlotte. The church has released statements in the past saying they are the targets of online rumors.
NBC Charlotte spoke with police, a local anti-human trafficking advocate and a UNCC student.
CMPD confirmed they’ve heard of these posts before, and they’ve had reports of contacts from the group occurring in our area, but there's been no evidence of any human trafficking cases.
UNCC student Susanny Acosta told NBC Charlotte that the situation empower_clt described happened to her twice.
“I have been approached by the group twice, most recently November 2018,” Acosta told NBC Charlotte. “Two women came to me, dressed in blouses and long skirts asking if I knew who God the Mother is. I said, I didn't, and I told them I had no interest in knowing because I don't believe in God. Plus, I was busy with my schoolwork at the moment. They were polite enough and walked to [the] next person who looked semi-distracted from their work.”
NBC Charlotte’s third source about this, Tammy Harris, is the founder and executive producer of The Ursus Institute, a local non-profit fighting human trafficking and supporting survivors.
“I am very familiar with the "god the mother" group that seems to have first started targeting students at UNCC," Harris said. "The (usually) female perpetrators will approach students and try to exploit their need for love and belonging by inviting the student to an "off-site Church". The perpetrators insist on driving the student to come off-site with them.”
However, none of these incidents posted about in Charlotte, New Jersey or Kentucky have been proven to be true.
The World Mission Society Church of God has released statements in the past that they are the targets of online rumors.
Nevertheless, it never hurts to be extra cautious no matter where you are and who approaches you.