5 Signs: How to Know Whether a Child is Being Trafficked

January 16, 2014

This January, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, you can take action against human trafficking. Educate yourself, and learn to recognize that a person — child or adult — has been trafficked. Here are five common signs:

  1. They know little about their surroundings.

    People can be trafficked in the area they grew up in, but it's more common for traffickers to move their victims. This distances them from family and friends, and allows traffickers to gain greater control over their lives.

  2. They work excessively long hours.

    Human trafficking victims are often forced to work long hours at jobs in restaurants, salons, hotels, sweatshops, brothels, construction sites or in traveling sales crews — often up to 18 hours a day.

  3. They exhibit fear or anxious behavior.

    Traffickers use many scare tactics to keep control over their victims. They may physically or sexually abuse them, threaten to harm their family and convince them that the police will harm them rather than help them.

  4. They were hired using false promises.

    Often, victims are deceived when looking for work or educational advancement. They may be offered a glamorous job such as modeling or a promising educational opportunity. Instead, they suffer abuse and exploitation at the hands of their traffickers.

  5. They are not in control of their own money or identification documents.

    Traffickers will take passports and IDs and hold victims’ money as yet another way to retain control and ensure that they have no way to escape. If you see any of these red flags, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text to BeFree (233733) to report a potential case. This is a confidential, 24 hour hotline. Interpreters are available.

This list is not exhaustive and represents only a few possible indicators. Not all signs must be present in human trafficking cases and are not cumulative. For a full list, please visit the Polaris Project website


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