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Indicators of Trafficking

Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is a vital step in identifying victims. Below are some common signs of human trafficking. Please note that not all indicators are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking.

Recognizing Labor Trafficking

Labor trafficking occurs when individuals are made to work through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. A key method of control in labor trafficking situations is keeping victims physically and emotionally isolated. In the United States, there are most likely more cases of labor trafficking than sex trafficking however sex trafficking is more widely recognized and labor trafficking victims often go unnoticed and unreported. 

Someone may be a labor trafficking victim if they: 

  • Feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave
  • Owe money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed
  • Do not have control of their passport or other identity documents
  • Are living and working in isolated conditions, largely cut off from interaction with others or support systems
  • Appear to be monitored by another person when talking or interacting with others
  • Are being threatened by their boss with deportation or other harm
  • Are working in dangerous conditions without proper safety gear, training, adequate breaks, or other protections
  • Are living in dangerous, overcrowded, or inhumane conditions provided by an employer

Recognizing Sex Trafficking 

Sex trafficking occurs when individuals are made to perform commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Under federal law, any child under 18 who is involved in commercial sex is legally a victim of trafficking, regardless of whether there is a third party involved. 

Someone may be a sex trafficking victim if they: 

  • Want to stop participating in commercial sex but feel scared or unable to leave the situation.
  • Disclose that they were reluctant to engage in commercial sex but that someone pressured them into it.
  • Live where they work or are transported by guards between home and workplace.
  • Are children who live with or are dependent on a family member with a substance use problem or who is abusive.
  • Have a “pimp” or “manager” in the commercial sex industry.
  • Work in an industry where it may be common to be pressured into performing sex acts for money, such as a strip club, illicit cantina, go-go bar, or illicit massage business.
  • Have a controlling parent, guardian, romantic partner, or “sponsor” who will not allow them to meet or speak with anyone alone or who monitors their movements, spending, or communications.

Reporting Human Trafficking

If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.

Report a Tip. Get Help.

Ready to Learn More?

Are you a parent, community member, or educator who would like to learn more about human trafficking? Are you a professional group, conference, or large gathering that would benefit from a FEE speaker? Are you hosting an event where a Fight to End Exploitation Info Table could be set up to engage your audience? Education is the number one way to stop human trafficking and we are eager to provide training and resources to help end the exploitation of people.

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