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…person-woman-smartphone-car

• 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)… black-and-white-woman-girl-sitting

• 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)…

• 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)…girl in window

• 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

Other: 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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