Know The Signs

Have you ever had the feeling that something didn't seem quite right about your interaction with someone you encountered? Although human trafficking and modern slavery often occur behind closed doors or in secrecy, the exploitation of human beings also occurs in broad daylight where individuals may unknowingly encounter someone who is enslaved. Simply being aware of human trafficking indicators is the first step in making a difference in the lives of those who may be entrapped.

The following is a partial list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking and modern slavery. If you recognize any of these signs, please call 1-888-373-7888 to report a situation to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline.

A person may be trafficked if he or she:

  • Cannot leave his or her job to find another one
  • Does not have control over his or her wages or money
  • Works but receives little or no pay
  • Has no choice about hours worked or under what conditions
  • Shows signs of physical abuse or injury
  • Is accompanied everywhere by someone who speaks for him/her
  • Appears to be fearful of or under the control of another person
  • Has health issues that have not been attended to
  • Owes money to an employer or another person whom s/he feels bound to repay
  • May describe moving or changing jobs suddenly and often
  • Is unfamiliar with the neighborhood where they live or work
  • Is not working in the job originally promised to him/her
  • Is travelling with minimal or inappropriate luggage/belongings
  • Lacks identification, passport or other travel documents or does not have control over his or her documentation
  • Does not have control over his or her finances
  • Provides sexual services in a strip club, massage parlor, brothel or other locations and has a manager or pimp
  • Is a laborer, domestic servant or caretaker but never leave the home or workplace
  • Is unable to freely contact friends or family
  • Is not allowed to socialize or attend religious services
  • Has restricted freedom of movement
  • Is a juvenile engaged in a commercial sex act

Trafficked persons may be reluctant to report or seek services because they:

  • Do not know or understand that they are being exploited
  • Are threatened that if they tell anyone, they or their families will be hurt
  • Have complex relationships with their traffickers that involve deep levels of psychological conditioning based on fear or misplaced feelings of love
  • Are unfamiliar with their surroundings and do not know whom to trust
  • Do not know help exists or where to go for it
  • Are unfamiliar with the laws, cultures, and languages of the destination location or country
  • Fear retribution and forcible removal or deportation to countries in which they may face imprisonment or other hardship
  • Fear law enforcement and other authorities
  • Are addicted to drugs
  • Are in debt to their traffickers
  • Are sending much needed money back 'home' and worry about not being able to do this

For a more comprehensive list on general indicators and also specifics regarding children, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, labor exploitation, begging and petty crime, see the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime publication Human Trafficking Indicators.

For a more detailed review of human trafficking indicators in children and potential responses, see the Florida Department of Children and Families’ Human Trafficking of Children Indicator Tool.