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  • Writer's pictureGenie Boynton

Identifying Human Trafficking

We talk a lot about the different types of human trafficking and who can be targeted but, how do we identify victim (or traffickers)?

Often, human trafficking is “hidden in plain sight” and recognizing the signs is the first step in identifying victims. Keep in mind that no single indicator is proof that human trafficking is occurring. The indicators below are a few examples that may alert you to a potential human trafficking situation:

The information below is from the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign.



Does the potential victim:

• Experience verbal or physical abuse (particularly from a supervisor), prevented from taking adequate breaks, made to work in unsafe conditions, or forced to meet daily quotas?

• Work excessively long and/or unusual hours?

• Accept a specific job but feels coerced or forced into a different job?

• Appear to be living at his or her place of work?

• Receive paychecks with negative balances or unreasonably low amounts for the pay period?

Is the employer or someone else:

• Creating debt for the potential victim or adding to a never-ending balance of debt?

• Processing payroll infrequently, not giving worker’s compensation insurance outlays where mandated, or forcing the potential victim to transfer funds to an employer’s account?

• Escorting the potential victim to the bank and/or using his or her banks accounts?

• Threatening the potential victim with deportation, arrest, or jail?

•In possession of the potential victim’s identification, travel documents, money, or cell phone?

• Forcing, defrauding, or coercing the potential victim to engage in a commercial sex act?


Does the potential victim:

• Act fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous particularly around their work or someone they know?

• Defer to another person to speak for him or her and avoid eye contact?

• Show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture?

• Show signs of being harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, other life necessities, or personal possessions?


Is someone else:

• Restricting the potential victim’s contact with friends or family?

• Limiting the potential victim’s social media use and/or stalking or monitoring their accounts?

• Preventing the potential victim from socializing or attending religious services?

• Preventing children from attending school and forcing them to work?

• Holding a large group in one place with poor conditions and limited space?

• Constantly watching or accompanying the potential victim?

• Threatening the potential victim or his or her family with harm if he or she leaves or quits work?

• Posting harmful content online about the potential victim to compel him or her to engage in a commercial sex act?


• Is someone under the age of 18 engaged in a commercial sex act?

• Causing someone under the age of 18 to engage in a commercial sex act, regardless of using force, fraud, or coercion, is human trafficking under U.S. law.

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