How To Spot Human Trafficking

Knowing what human trafficking looks like could save lives. There are many nuances to human trafficking, making it difficult to spot sometimes. Because traffickers manipulate and often deceive trafficking victims, some victims don’t even know they’re being trafficked until it’s too late. Knowing the signs of human trafficking is beneficial as you take steps of precaution for yourself and remain on the lookout for possible victims.

Know What to Look For: Potential Signs of Human Trafficking

Department of Homeland Security has this list on their website of possible human trafficking signs so that any observant citizen can be an advocate. Think you spot trafficking? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
  • Has a child stopped attending school?
  • Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
  • Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
  • Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
  • Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
  • Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
  • Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
  • Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
  • Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
  • Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
  • Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?

While this list isn’t comprehensive, it provides a helpful point of reference for spotting human trafficking. Keep in mind that none or all of the above indicators could be present in a trafficking situation.

What Should I Do if I Spot Trafficking Activity?

Trafficking is dangerous and needs to be handled by a professional, so if you think you spot human trafficking, do not approach the suspected victim or perpetrator! Write down what you are seeing and where, and then immediately call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). This line is open 24/7 all 365 days a year and operators can provide you with a helpful, safe course of action. Be observant and proactive, and you can make a difference. If you want to be an advocate for victims, learn how to spot human trafficking and keep your eyes open for signs that indicate someone is being forced or coerced to do something they don’t want to do.

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