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Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking in an important step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some possible indicators:

  • Recruited with false promises
  • Signs of untreated illness or injuries
  • Juvenile exchanging sex acts to meet basic needs
  • Works excessive hours for little or no pay
  • Does not have possession of legal/travel documents
  • Controlled/restricted communication/fearful
  • Older boyfriend/girlfriend/companion
  • Unable to speak separately or alone
  • Allegedly owes money to employer
  • Tattoos/branding on the neck and/or lower back

The Polaris Project provides additional indicators specific to labor and sex trafficking. Check them out.

Each indicator alone may not necessarily mean a person is being trafficked. However, if you see a combination of these signs, be attentive and report potential trafficking situations.

While knowing the warning signs is important, as we learn about how human trafficking really works, we are also learning that the best way to help is to pay attention to people you actually know or interact with- your students, your tenants, your children, your patients, your co-workers. In addition to proximity, context is key to being able to help understand if what you are seeing is sex or labor trafficking or something else entirely.

For context examples, check out the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign Toolkits that explain how trafficking situations intersect with certain kinds of systems and industries:

Downloadable Indicator Cards are available in multiple languages through the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign.