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Home / Articles / Human Trafficking / 23 Signs of Human Trafficking

23 Signs of Human Trafficking

It may be happening in your community

  • By
  • Mar 27, 2017
23 Signs of Human Trafficking

By definition, human trafficking is the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring or keeping and receiving an individual against his or her will. Traffickers, sometimes also known as pimps, use coercion, manipulation, threats of violence, and exert financial control over their victims in order to keep them trapped in a lifestyle of being bought and sold.

This is why trafficking has been called modern-day slavery.

Globally, there are an estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labor, and out of those, 4.5 million individuals are trapped in forced sexual exploitation, according to the International Labour Organization.

Victims often know their perpetrators—they can be a spouse, boyfriend or family member—meaning human trafficking overlaps with domestic violence on a regular basis. Traffickers also use tactics that abusers use to control survivors—coercion, threats of violence or outright violence, threats of harm to a survivor’s children or family, gaslighting, alienation from support persons and financial control.

“As we know in domestic violence, where victims are abused, [a survivor] may be manipulated, forced, deceived or coerced by her abuser to indulge in sex for money. She is forced to have sex for money with a threat of harm to her, her children or her loved ones if she fails to do it. She believes the proceeds would be used for the benefit of the family. And so she indulges in sex for money to help her family or boyfriend, who professes to love her dearly,” Edith Okupa with Restoration Project International, told last December.

How You Can Spot Trafficking

The following is a list of 23 signs from the National Human Trafficking Hotline that may indicate someone is being trafficked. It could be happening in your very own community, and recognizing the signs could save someone’s life. If you suspect human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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Work and Living Conditions:

  • Is restricted from coming and going as he or she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing sex acts for money or trade
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has someone who manages him or her, such as a pimp
  • Is unpaid, paid very little or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Abnormal Behaviors:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Has no access to health care
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money and has no financial records or bank accounts
  • Is not in control of his/her own ID or passport
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
  • Claims he or she is just visiting but is unable to clarify where he or she is staying
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

  • Something Simple You Can Do urges people to write the phone number of the National Human Trafficking Hotline inside clothes they donate. It may be the only way to reach a victim of human trafficking who is otherwise cut off from the outside world. The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 888-373-7888.