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Get in the van: No fame, no phone, no clue

By Kristen MisakColumnist

NBC’s “The Today Show” recently featured a report that stunned a great deal college students and their parents.

Investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen travelled to a college campus and posed as the casting director of a new reality television show about college students. He stood outside of a parked van, holding a camera on his shoulder, and asked students if they would like to participate. If the students were interested, Rossen then invited them to sit in his van to fill out an application.

Of the eight students asked to enter the van, four complied. They sat down to fill out the application with quite a bit of personal information, including address and social security number. When prompted, some of the students even handed over their cell phones – their lifelines – to Rossen.

Without their phones, the students would have no way of contacting someone for help if Rossen were to get into the van and drive away. No one would know where they went, and by the time they would be found, it could be too late.

How could people our age be so gullible? At least we go to a good school, where the students know better than to get into a stranger’s van – something we’ve been told not to do since we were young kids.

Think again. The Rossen Report was conducted on our very own campus, and some of our very own students got into that van. Would 50 percent of our students really hop into a suspicious vehicle without hesitation? Shouldn’t we know better?

According to the report, college students are just as at risk for kidnapping as are small children. Last year alone, 72 young adults aged 18 to 25 were reported abducted by strangers.

We may think that we know how to determine whether a situation is safe or not, but when faced with an enticing opportunity, we abandon all of our inhibitions and put ourselves at risk.

What we forget is that we are not invincible – a common oversight of college students – and that kidnappers know what tactics work best in tricking us. Even on a college campus without adult supervision, we must remember the things that we learned back in preschool about stranger danger.

Kidnappers do not resemble evil villains. They can be unexpected – of any age, race or gender. Just because someone looks trustworthy doesn’t mean that they are.

Do not disclose any personal information to someone who is not confirmed as credible, and do not ever get into any vehicle for a stranger. This should be common sense, but surprisingly, we are quite easily convinced. In addition, if suspicious thoughts cross your mind when you’re around someone you do not know, they are not to be ignored.

This Rossen Report goes to show that we must be more aware that there are potential dangers all around us. Just because we feel like bad things can’t happen to us doesn’t mean that they can’t. Safety first, even in college.

Letter to the editor:

It’s ten o’clock: Do you know where your roommate is?