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TACTICS CHILD PREDATORS USE TO LURE KIDS: Red Flags Every Child And Parent Need To Know

Whilst cases of abduction are very rare in Australia, they do happen, and it is a topic in the forefront of the public domain at present with a disturbing bid for freedom by a known Australian child abductor, rapist and murderer.

We refer to the horrific and devastating murder of 12-year-old Sian Kingi from Noosa. The killer’s plea for parole this week has sparked fury and disdain, and it is a reminder to us all of the dangerous and manipulative ways offenders go about their business.

Sadly, we can’t save Sian, but we CAN learn about ploys predators use and teach our children how to spot them to hopefully save another child from falling victim to such a horrible fate.

After a number of previous attempts on other victims in Ipswich, Sian’s murderer and his accomplice wife noticed sweet Sian, who was riding her bicycle home from shopping with her mother. She was minutes from home.

Sian was stopped by her killers on the premise that they were looking for a lost poodle. After dismounting to help, Sian was grabbed from behind and forced into the back of a car where she was bound, gagged and driven to Tinbeerwah. She was then raped repeatedly before being stabbed, strangled, and abandoned.

Top 5 Predator Lures

Lures like a lost dog have been used by predators for many years with success, and the FBI have identified this as one of the top five lures used by predators. It is considered in the category of the Helpless Lure. This is the person who needs help carrying boxes to his car, or to find a lost dog, or is perhaps looking for a lost child.

The second category of most commonly used and alarming lures that predators use is the Promise Lure. This is when the predator promises to take a child to mum or dad, or perhaps promises a surprise or a lolly in the car, or promises something else enticing to the child if he or she goes with them. It is extremely effective on the immature and innocent minds of children.

Thirdly is the Gift Giving Lure. This is when a predator gives a child something, such as lollies, chocolate, toys, money or other gifts. For a youngster, such gifts are simply irresistible much of the time.

Next is the Messenger Lure. This is when the predator tells the child that “Your mum was in a car accident” and the child is to go with them. Or, “Your mum asked me to pick you up today.” It can be used at sporting fields after a child’s practice, outside of dance studios as girls wait to be collected by parents, or even in school car parks as a child waits for mum to pick them up.

The final category of top known lures is the Magician Lure. This is the predator who seemingly magically knows the child’s name, parent’s name or other information about the child—which makes the child believe this person can be trusted. Of course, such information can be easily obtained by someone very untrustworthy indeed.

Other Common Lures

There are other lures that predators use and one lure can often be used in conjunction with other lures. A common one is the Affection Lure, whereby predators exploit relationships and take advantage of the normal tensions that exist between teenagers and parents, as well as youngsters who face issues at home like divorce, substance abuse or neglect. By offering affection they can be seen by the child as supportive. This may start with relaxed, seemingly innocuous behavior to gain trust.

Another common lure is the Assistance Lure. These lures can be used to entice the victim away from where they are safe. They rely on the helpful nature of children being willing to assist an adult. It could be as simple as asking them for directions or help carrying something. Offenders can also offer help to a child to allow them to get closer to them. Children need to remember that adults should only ask other adults for help, never a child. The best defence to teach against this lure is pretending not to hear, then quickly leaving the area.

An alarming predatory technique is also an Authority Lure. Because children are taught to respect and listen to adults in authority, it is easy for an adult to abuse that power. Predators take advantage of their positions as coaches, teachers, leaders, or relatives to control youngsters into abuse.

A lure designed to entice the victim is a Bribery Lure. Who doesn’t want something that is easy to get? Children are offered things like lollies, toys, CDs, drugs and money to persuade them to go willingly with a potential abductor, or as a reward for tolerating abuse or keeping it secret. We must teach children that a gift that is given because someone wants something in return is not a gift, it is bribery.

In 2021 we increasingly come across Computer and Online Lures. Sadly, predators successfully lure children through the use of anonymous chat-rooms and e-mail to learn a child’s personal information and to then arrange private, in-person meetings. Predators can be very skillful at using social media to “friend” a child and discover the child’s interests, which gives them the ability to manipulate.

Older children may also be subjected to a Drug Lure. This is where an adult uses drugs, especially alcohol, to lower inhibitions or even incapacitate a child. Drugs may be used to seduce or lure youngsters into abuse by making it harder to keep a clear head.

Increasingly we also find the Ego/Fame Lure. This responds to a human’s natural desire for compliments, fame, flattery and fortune. For example, “Do you want to be on TV?” Youngsters can be offered an audition or private tryout and told to keep it a secret from parents. Predators may offer to photograph or interview the child for a modeling contract or television interview but insist that it be kept a secret.

Another effective technique predators use is the Emergency Lure. This type of lure is used to worry or confuse a child due to their anxiety and fear. By faking a crisis, predators trick youngsters into going with them willingly. For example: “Your mother was in a car accident and has been taken to the hospital! I was sent to take you to her.” There is often an element of urgency which can further disorientate a child and make it harder for them to think clearly.

By teaching children about safe distances we can help avoid the Friendly Lure. This simply involves very friendly questions such as, “Hi, how are you today?” This is designed to break down barriers quickly by pretending to be nice and friendly. “I’m nice so I wouldn’t want to hurt you, would I?” This is what the child hears. It may be done over time, or start from a distance with a wave or a smile, but the goal is to get closer to the victim.

The next one can get a little tricky and easily slides under the parental radar, and that is the Fun And Games Lure. This often involves touch such as tickling or wrestling to instigate contact and lower the child’s guard. Games that include the use of handcuffs, ropes, duct tape, or other restraints prevent children from protecting themselves or escaping.

A Hero Lure uses a child’s adoration and respect, predators can exploit their “hero” status. Children often admire their favorite teachers, coaches, relatives, or local celebrities so they may endure repeated abuse in order to maintain the “friendship” or keep their hero out of trouble.

The offer of a high-paying, interesting, or fun job or errand may be seen as a quick way to make some money and is known as a Job Lure. For an older child it may be a phony interview in a secluded location or advertised with only a post office box. For younger children maybe it’s the offer of helping clear the yard or move some boxes from the house.

A Name Lure uses the child’s name to create a sense of familiarity, confusing the child into thinking that they know the perpetrator and creating a false sense of trust. The offender will try and build rapport by using their name. Well-meaning parents often mark backpacks, clothing, and other belongings with name tags, but these should be kept inside where others cannot see.

A common technique used for older children is the Playmate Lure. Parents should be aware that pedophiles may lure youngsters to their home with a party atmosphere. For example, they may provide toys, sports equipment, use of a swimming pool etc. They may promote an “anything goes” attitude that can be very attractive to adolescents. They can also use children to lure other children into the fold.

We have already discussed the dangerous case of Pet Lure to some extent when discussing Sian’s sad story. Because children love animals it’s very difficult for them to ignore the offer of seeing some cute kittens or helping to look for a “lost puppy.” Remind children that even if there is a lost puppy, it’s not their job to help find it.

It might seem strange and highly concerning to parents, but a very real lure to be aware of is the Pornography Lure. This one works because children of all ages are curious about sex and by exposing the victim to pornography it normalizes sexual activity, thus setting the stage for seduction.

Finally, we should educate our children about the possibility of a Threats and Fear Lure. Alarmingly, predators may blackmail or threaten youngsters into cooperation and continued abuse. For example they say, “It’s my word against yours, and who’s going to believe a little kid?” They may even threaten that they have a weapon. “Come quietly and I won’t hurt you.” Be sure to remind your child that someone who likes them would never threaten to hurt them.

What We Can Do

Rather than using this information to scare us into becoming hermits, we can become aware of the lures used by predators and teach our children how to respond appropriately and in a way that will keep them safe.

That’s what the COBRA Child Abduction Training course is all about - arming children with the awareness, knowledge and confidence to avoid predators and lures like lost poodles and cute kittens. It’s a call the authorities, our community and Sian’s family are resonating as they object to the recent application for parole of Sian’s killer.

Sadly, there are many more families who share the pain of Sian’s parents, including the Morcombe family who have thrown their support behind Sian's family after their 13-year-old son Daniel was murdered and abducted in 2003 by Brett Cowan.

Denise Morcombe tweeted on Thursday calling for the Queensland Parole board to not free Watt's from prison. “You cannot be serious QLD Parole Board even thinking about letting Barrie Watts out – the child killer!” Mrs Morcombe wrote. "The Kingi and Morcombe families say NO NOT EVER.”

We concur, and as a team COBRA we say ONE CHILD IS TOO MANY. NO MORE. NOT EVER.

To book your child in our next Child Abduction Course you can head to:

* N.b Much of the content contained in this article comes from the COBRA C.A.P Course created by the COBRA Australia Regional Director Glenn Stevens, along with his best-selling book ‘Please Keep Me Safe’ which can be found at

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