January is recognized as “National Human Trafficking Awareness Month”, but can you spot the signs of someone who is being trafficked? This post will share tips for recognizing this global issues as well as tips on how to report human trafficking. Human trafficking is an issue in almost every country. Men, women and children are uprooted from their lives and forced into commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. If you see someone you believe is a victim, it is important for your safety and the victim’s safety not to approach the victim to let them know you are going to help or the person you believe is trafficking them. Instead, call the authorities and let the professionals handle the case. 

How can you recognize if someone is being trafficked?

Polaris lists signs of victims being trafficked as the following:

Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question:

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

  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts

  • 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.)

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 health care

  • Appears malnourished

  • 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)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address

  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in

  • Loss of sense of time

  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Polaris further explains, “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.” Learn more at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

If you see these signs, please call: (888)-373-7888

While human trafficking is most common with women, there are men being trafficked too.
Know the signs, save a life. Stop human trafficking.

Recognize Human Trafficking

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