It is important to know the signs of human trafficking so you can identify a potential victim and help authorities provide the assistance they need. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance or you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888.

How do I recognize a victim when I see one?

*** Work/living conditions ***

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/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.)
  • Lives with employer
  • Multiple people in a cramped space
  • High foot traffic in and out of a residence

*** Mental health or behavior ***

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous, or paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Post-traumatic stress or psychological disorders
  • Suffers from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade, or frighten the individual
  • A sudden or dramatic change in behavior

*** Physical health ***

  • Lacks health care or is kept under surveillance when taken to a doctor, hospital, or clinic for treatment. The trafficker may act as a translator.
  • Appears malnourished, dehydrated, or has poor personal hygiene
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture (unexplained bruising, broken bones, cuts, or bruises in various stages of healing)

 *** Control ***

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating) or answers appear to be scripted or rehearsed
  • Appears to be in a relationship with someone who is dominating
  • Unable to answer questions about where they live

*** Other ***

  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
  • Being a recent arrival to the U.S. and does not speak English
  • Is afraid of law enforcement or receiving help
  • The person appears disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or places of worship
  • A child that has stopped attending school

 *Note: Not all signs are apparent in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative

Information provided by: Polaris Project, U.S. Department of Statehumantrafficking.orgU.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Homeland Security


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