Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking

Join the fight against modern slavery.

Identifying these indicators may save someone's life.

Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking

Join the fight against modern slavery.

Identifying these indicators may save someone's life.

While victims of human trafficking are typically hidden away, knowing how to identify the signs of modern slavery can save a person's life. Criminal trafficking presents itself in many forms, and you should consider the indicators together. Even just two or three signs can be enough to expose an exploitative situation.

If you have suspicion that someone may be a victim of trafficking, we urge you to report it to Hope for Justice United States by calling 615.356.0946 Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ET or email 

If you believe an individual may be in immediate danger, please call 911 first.

Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators are critical steps to saving people from becoming victims of human trafficking and to restoring more lives. Be on the lookout for the following:

General Indicators

Trafficking victims are often lured into another country by false promises and so may not easily trust others. They may:            

-Be fearful of police/authorities.

-Be fearful of the trafficker, believing their lives or family members’ lives are at risk if they escape.

-Exhibit signs of physical and psychological trauma e.g. anxiety, lack of memory of recent events, bruising, untreated conditions.

-Be fearful of telling others about their situation.

-Be unaware they have been trafficked and believe they are simply in a bad job.

-Have limited freedom of movement.

-Be unpaid or paid very little.

-Have limited access to medical care.

-Seem to be in debt to someone.

-Have no passport or mention that someone else is holding their passport.

-Be regularly moved to avoid detection.

-Be controlled by use of witchcraft.

Sexual Exploitation

Be aware, ordinary residential housing and hotels are being used more and more as brothels. People forced into sexual exploitation may:            

-Be moved between brothels, sometimes from city to city.

-Sleep on work premises.

-Display a limited amount of clothing, of which a large proportion is sexual.

-Display substance misuse.

-Be forced, intimidated or coerced into providing sexual services.

-Be subjected to abduction, assault, or rape.

-Be unable to travel freely e.g. picked up and dropped off at work location by another person.

-Have money for their services provided collected by another person.

Forced Labor

Work is done under the menace of a penalty or the person did not offer voluntary labor and is now unable to leave. They may experience:            

-Threat or actual physical harm.

-Restriction of movement or confinement.

-Debt bondage i.e. working to pay off a debt or loan, often the victim is paid very little or nothing at all for their services because of deductions.

-Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions.

-Withholding of documents e.g. passport/security card.

-Threat of revealing to authorities an irregular immigration status.

-Their employer's inability to produce documents required.

-Poor or non-existent health and safety standards.

-Requirement to pay for tools and food.

-Imposed place of accommodation (and deductions made for it).

-Pay that is less than minimum wage.

-Dependence on employer for services.

-No access to labor contract.

-Excessive work hours/few breaks.

Child Abuse

A child may be exploited by a person in a position of power or trust for exchange of goods or services. You may notice a child that is:            

-Often going missing/truanting.


-Has unexplained money/presents.

-Experimenting with drugs/alcohol.

-Associating with/being groomed by older people (not in normal networks).

-In relationships with significantly older people.

-Taking part in social activities with no plausible explanation.

-Seen entering or leaving vehicles with unknown adults.

-Showing evidence of physical/sexual assault (including STD’s).

-Showing signs of low self image, self harm, or an eating disorder.

Domestic Servitude

This includes the obligation to provide certain services and live on another person's property without the possibility of changing those circumstances. They may:            

-Be living and working for a family in a private home.

-Not be eating with the rest of the family.

-Have no bedroom or proper sleeping place.

-Have no private space.

-Be forced to work excessive hours; “on call” 24 hours a day.

-Never leave the house without the ‘employer’.

-Be malnourished.

-Be reported as missing or accused of crime by their ‘employer’ if they try to escape.

We hope that this list empowers you with knowledge on how you can be a part of ending human trafficking in our generation. Additionally, CLICK HERE to download printable wallet cards listing the key indicators and contact information for Hope for Justice. Keep one for yourself and share the extras with friends and family.

Again, if you recognize a potentially exploitative situation, we urge you to contact local authorities and/or reach out to Hope for Justice by calling 615.356.0946 or emailing

January 10, 2019
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