Something about her young family’s trip to Ikea isn’t sitting right with Deandra Toyos. She pulls her daughter, who is four, and her two infant sons closer to her. But it does nothing to phase the pair of men circling Toyos and her brood as they peruse the shops wares. Soon, she begins to suspect that the strangers may have sinister intentions. To be precise, Toyo spheres that they want to abduct her children.
Toyota’s day at Ikea started out like any other. She’d rounded up her three children and her own mom for the shopping trip. The Covina, California based mother needed a new couch, so all five of them perused the furniture. Her children tried out the new potential pieces as well, jumping and sitting on the showroom sofas. But as Toyota and her family looked around, she happened to notice something.
Wherever she and her brood went, two men seemed to follow. What proceeded to happen was something she’d heard about but never expected to experience herself. As a result, Toyos took to Facebook and, in a post that subsequently went viral, warned parents about the dangers of abduction. It’s nigh on impossible for experts to precisely calculate the number of human trafficking victims, because it’s likely that many remain undetected. Nevertheless, researchers can make educated guesses, and the numbers are staggering.
Estimates state that at least 20 million people have been trafficked and transformed into modern day slaves, and the figure could be twice that amount. For Deandra Toyos. Though, the backdrop for her scary encounter was a California Ikea store. She and her three children two boys and a girl love to spend carefree fun time together. Toyos described their favorite activities on the website for her wedding photography business.
As Toyos put it, her world is pretty great, especially when she and her children had Taylor Swift dance parties together. Let’s be honest, they’re much better dancers than I am, the mom of three added. However, their trip to Ikea wouldn’t leave the Toyota’s dancing and singing. It all seemed to be normal at first. She and her mother loaded up the kids for the journey, something they often did.
We enjoy going, and it’s always nice to get the kids out of the house, Toyos wrote on Facebook. In the back of her mind, though, Toyota had the story of a mother who had claimed that she and her children had been followed by human traffickers while at Target. I read things like that and I always think, wow, that’s so scary. I need to be careful, the photographer wrote. But I always think that could never happen to me.
But you guys, it did. As Toyota was told that she’d Trek to Ikea specifically to look at couches. So she, her mother, and her three little ones headed to that section of the store. All had seemed normal at first, my daughter was trying to convince us which couch we should get, Toyos wrote. My older son was happily walking from couch to couch, flopping himself on each one.
All the while, Toyos had her youngest son cradled in a sling around her. Well, he peacefully slept. However, something or rather, someone caught the mom of three’s eye. I noticed a well dressed, middle aged man circling the area, getting closer to me and the kids, she wrote. Then he came right up to me and the boys.
Something told Toyos to stand between the stranger and her older son. However, that apparently didn’t stop the man from continuing to circle the area, staring at the kids. And it didn’t seem like he was genuinely shopping, either. He occasionally picked something up, pretended to look at it, but looked right over at us instead, Toyota recalled. The man’s presence didn’t just raise Toyota’s alarm bells, either.
Her mother reportedly noticed as well, and mentioned that we needed to keep an eye on him, the photographer wrote. As a result, she, her mom and her brood moved on to a new area. But the well dressed man then came after them. By this point, Toyota noticed that a 20 something man had started to linger around her and her kids, too. With that, she and her mother chose to stop shopping and instead took a seat in the hope that the men would shuffle off into another part of the store.
In fact, Toyota, her mom, and the kids waited it out in an Ikea display room for half an hour. That was because the men had also decided to sit down on a showroom sofa that overlooked the family. Toyos believed their actions confirmed her suspicions. Again, when Toyos and her family stood up to move, so did the men. In fact, the two strangers walked to a couch that was even closer to the family.
With that, Toyota’s mother decided to do something. Staring back at the older man as she watched them, she made eye contact very clearly, letting them know that she saw them, Toyos wrote. Then Toyos, her kids and her mother stood up, spoke with an Ikea employee looped the store, visited the bathroom and exited it in a different section, and their roundabout route apparently helped them to lose the two men, although Toyota still kept the kids right with her the whole time. Before Toyota and her family left the store, though, they informed Ikea’s security team of the strange incident. And afterwards, the mom of three decided to write about the experience, apparently in the hope that it might help other parents who might find themselves in a similar situation.
For starters, Toyotas alleged that the men had no reason to be an Ikea. These men weren’t shopping, she claimed. 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.
Toyo stated that the older man would also drop whatever he had. When she and her kids moved on to a new part of the showroom, she warned parents to look out for people who weren’t waiting for anyone. The men’s interactions, or rather lack of them, also struck Toyosa’s odd. They didn’t even talk to each other, she asserted. They didn’t talk to anyone.
They didn’t smile casually at people. In fact, she said, this was one of the first indications that something was off with the older man. 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 always make eye contact with people, Toyota wrote. He instantly looked away.
That was odd to me. And another cause for concern, she added, was the men’s clothing both of the men encircling. Toyos and her family had on smart clothes, but the two strangers reportedly looked unique enough that they didn’t seem associated. Finally, Toyota suggested that parents be aware of the people around them as well as the environment in which they have their kids. She noted that both men seemed to linger near one of the store’s exits.
In addition, they’d chosen to visit an Ikea store, which meant they had a huge winding floor plan to play with. The area they were hanging around had an exit right by it, Toyota concluded. Ikea is a massive, confusing maze of a store, but they could have run out that accident with my child and handed them off to someone waiting outside and then gone before I could find them. Toyos felt as though she’d witnessed human traffickers on the prowl for victims. I’m reading more and more about these experiences and it’s terrifying, the photographer wrote.
If not that something else shady was obviously going on. Perhaps the best bit of advice that Toyota gave came at the end of her Facebook post. Following on from Oliver her own tips about Spotting Abductors, she reminded parents to trust their instincts. Something was off, Toyos wrote. We knew it in our gut.