How Technology is Helping Drug Traffickers Get Away with It

Advanced technology does a lot of good, but it can also do harm in the wrong hands. We look at the ways in which drug traffickers are using technology in 2021.

When we think about drug trafficking, we often think of far-flung countries like Mexico. However, this is, unfortunately, a very real problem much closer to home.

In the UK, county lines drug trafficking is big business, and figures show that there are 1,500 drug trafficking routes within the United Kingdom, with a turnover of around £500million. The movement and distribution of drugs causes devastation for many families and, appallingly, a significant number of these traffickers, i.e. those being concerned in the supply of drugs, enlist children to help them in their illicit practices.

Technology advances at lightning speed and, while professionals such as doctors, scientists and the police can use this to great effect, so too can criminals like drug traffickers. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways in which drug traffickers are taking advantage of technology.

5 Ways Drug Traffickers Are Making Use of Technology

1.    Recruitment

For the drug trafficker, recruitment is incredibly important and, in 2021, criminals are using technology to hook new recruits in two different ways:

  • Social Media: there are 5billion social media users across the globe, and many of these are as young as 12 or 13. Drug traffickers use social media to post fake job advertisements and offers in order to snag unsuspecting people and entice them into the criminal underworld.
  • Recruitment Platforms: similarly, traffickers also post fake job adverts on established and well-known job sites such as Indeed. Although this is, of course, condemned by the job sites, but can be very difficult for them to identify and remove false adverts.
  • Websites: the advent of cheap, DIY websites using hosts likeWordpress has meant that criminals are able to quickly and easily build professional looking websites in order to snare their victims. Often set up as a recruitment agency or a cash lending platform, these sites are created to gain access to personal information and to recruit people into trafficking rings.

2.    Mobile Phone Technology

Once a victim has been recruited into drug trafficking, traffickers are able to use mobile phone technology, such as GPS and cameras, to track the movements of recruits and to make real-time video calls in order to verify their location. The use of this technology, combined with threats of violence, often means that recruits feel that they have no way out of the drug trafficking life.

3.    Cybercrime

Drug traffickers are always on the lookout for ways of making more cash to fund their operations and, unfortunately, the internet provides theideal playground for skilled criminals. Those being concerned in the supply of drugsuse a number of forms of cybercrime, including phishing and ransomware for the purposes of stealing information and identities and hacking accounts.

During 2020, cybercrime around the world reached an all-time high due to the unprecedented number of people moving online as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe. During this time, many individuals and businesses found that they were woefully unprotected when it came to cyber security – leaving the door wide open to cyber criminals like drug traffickers.

4.    Concealment Of Illegal Gains

Historically, criminals like drug traffickers would be caught out by the tracking and monitoring of the movement of funds. These days, fintech such as digital wallets and cryptocurrency mean that it’s much easier for traffickers to conceal their cash and continue with their operations.

This year, authorities, including the FBI and Europol, seized $4.9 million in cryptocurrencies from a group of dark net drug traffickers. It’s thought that this may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to criminal use of digital currencies.

5.    Sales Of Drugs

The traditional image of a drug deal is that of shady characters on street corners exchanging cash for packages of drugs. However, this is not always the case in 2021.

Drug traffickers are able to set up complex and sophisticated online networks which allow them to advertise, take payment, and distribute their wares. Many will use drop points such as Amazon lockers, which mean that there is no face to face interaction between seller and buyer. All of this comes together to protect the identity of criminals and help them to avoid detection.

Putting the Brakes on Drug Trafficking

While the use of technology has turned the drug trafficking industry into a game of cat and mouse between criminals and the law, the UK government is investing significant amounts of cash in a number of different initiatives.

In October of this year, a major operation was successfully completed which resulted in 1,458 arrests. Almost two million pounds worth of drugs was also seized, and 2,664 vulnerable people safeguarded.

Although tech is certainly creating greater accessibility for drugs, so too is it helping the police catch these criminals.


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