SAN DIEGO – A California mother's word of caution about the time she protected her kids at IKEA from whom she believed to be human traffickers is spreading on the internet.
Diandra Toyos says she was testing sofas in IKEA with her three small children and mother when she noticed a man watching them.
"After a few minutes, I noticed a well dressed, middle aged man circling the area, getting closer to me and the kids. At one point he came right up to me and the boys, and instinctively I put myself between he and my mobile son. I had a bad feeling. He continued to circle the area, staring at the kids. He occasionally picked something up, pretending to look at it but looking right over at us instead."
Toyos said her mother noticed the man as well, and later, even noticed a second man circling the area.
"My mom and I decided to sit down and wait for them to move on. We had a gut feeling something was going on, but we hoped we were wrong and they would move on. So we sat in one of the little display rooms. For close to 30 minutes. And they sat too. They sat down on one of the couches on the display floor that faced us. That was when we knew our gut feeling was right and something was off. They sat the whole time we sat, and stood up right as we got up."
Toyos said the men continued to watch her family as they walked through the store.
The family was eventually able to lose sight of the men, Toyos said.
She talked to an IKEA employee and reported it to security.
The mother of three posted about her experience on Facebook.
"These men weren't shopping. While they walked around the store, they weren't looking at things... not really. The older man would occasionally pick something up and act like he was looking at it, but he'd look right over the top of it at my kids. Then he'd drop it and move on as soon as we did.
They weren't waiting for anyone. Often you see men in a place like IKEA waiting for their wives, but these guys appeared to be alone. They didn't even talk to each other. They didn't talk to anyone. They didn't smile casually at people (in fact, early on, I looked at the older guy when he got close to us and smiled... which is something I do regularly when I'm out.. I'm always making eye contact with people. He instantly looked away. That was odd to me).
They were dressed nicely but very differently. I would never have put these two together. And they didn't appear to be together.
The area they were hanging around had an exit right by it. IKEA is a massive confusing maze of a store. But they could have run out that exit with my child and handed them off to someone waiting outside and been gone before I could find them.
Something was off. We knew it in our gut. I am almost sure that we were the targets of human trafficking. This is happening all over. Including the United States. It's in our backyards. I'm reading more and more about these experiences and it's terrifying. If not that, something else shady was obviously going on. Either way, as parents, we NEED to be aware."
Toyos' Facebook post has gone viral, receiving more than 102,300 shares.
Editor's note: Diandra Toyos is not an expert on the subject of human trafficking and as her Facebook post states, she does not claim to be. Toyos said her intention is that someone will read her post and “remember to pay attention to their children, and help keep kids safe.”