Know the Signs

The list of signs and symptoms of human trafficking below is not exhaustive. With only a few exceptions any one of these signs does not necessarily mean the person is a victim of human trafficking. Use your best judgment. If something seems suspicious, make an anonymous call to the Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888.


Common Work and Living Conditions

The individual…

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 years of age 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 unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large and/or increasing debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • Is living or working in a location with high-security measures (e.g. opaque or boarded-up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.).

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

The Individual(s)… 

  • Exhibits unusually fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid behavior
  • Reacts with unusually fearful or anxious behavior at any reference to “law enforcement”
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Exhibits a flat affect

Poor Physical Health

The Individual(s)…
girl in window

  • Exhibits unexplained injuries or signs of prolonged/untreated illness or disease
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

The Individual(s)…

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, and/or has no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (e.g. ID, passport, or visa)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for him/herself (e.g., a third party may insist on being present and/orinterpreting)
  • Has an attorney that he/she doesn’t seem to know or to have agreed to receive representation services from


The Individual(s)…

  • Has been “branded” by a trafficker (tattoo of a name or $)
  • Claims to be “just visiting” and is unable to clarify where he/she is staying or to provide an address
  • Exhibits a lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
  • Exhibits a loss of a sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
  • Provided by Polaris Project
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