Human Trafficking

Currently, there are approximately 20.9 million people enslaved throughout the world with 2.5 million located right here in the United States. Slavery was supposed to end with the Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was enacted on December 18, 1865, officially made ALL slavery illegal in the United States. These statistics show that slavery is still alive and flourishing throughout the entire world.(22)

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against his/her will.

Sex trafficking has been found in a wide variety of venues within the sex industry, including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution.

Labor trafficking has been found in diverse labor settings including, domestic work, small businesses, large farms, and factories.

The following is a list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking to help you recognize the signs. If you see any of these red flags, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for specialized victim services referrals or to report the situation. Click here to learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations.

The presence of these red flags is an indication that further assessment may be necessary to identify a potential human trafficking situation. This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Indicators reference conditions a potential victim might exhibit.

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health:

  • Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by employer
  • Appears malnourished or shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of 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)


Common Work and Living Conditions:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • 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.)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Note: According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.

If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC). If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.(23)