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Red Flags

Copyright ©  Collaborative to End Human Trafficking. All rights reserved.
Human trafficking is a crime "hidden in plain sight". 

Victims don't often self-identify because of fear, shame, or not understanding that what is happening to them is a crime. Each of us, therefore, has the potential to help identify a victim of trafficking if we understand the warning signs and report suspicious situations when we see them.

If a person is in imminent danger, call 911, or your local police.
Never attempt to intervene in a situation you suspect is human trafficking. If you are uncertain about what you are observing, our national and local hotlines can help guide you in identifying what you are observing.

Red flags of human trafficking may include:

In general, the person...

  • ​may not speak for themselves; they defer to a controlling individual.
  • can appear submissive, afraid, or nervous, and avoids eye contact.
  • shows signs of physical or mental abuse.
  • has inconsistencies in their story or has a well-rehearsed story.
  • suddenly has new, expensive clothing, jewelry, and other items.
  • ​has a tattoo that could, in fact, be a traffickers branding.
  • has multiple hotel card keys, credit cards, or cell phones.
  • is not in possession of his/her U.S. or international identification documents.

Their living or working conditions may be such that the person:

  • works long or unusual hours, with little or no payment
  • lives where he/she works, or is transported to and from work in a group
  • has restricted freedom of movement due to threats or physical barriers, i.e. bars on windows, locks on the outside of the doors.
  • ​lives with multiple, unrelated people in small quarters.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to trafficking.  In addition to the red flags above, there are additional warning signs to consider for minors.

The minor might:

  • ​be in the presence of an older "boyfriend" or "girlfriend".
  • ​have new jewelry, a new hairdo, polished nails, or new clothing that their parents or guardian did not pay for.
  • ​wear inappropriate clothing for their age, or for the weather.
  • ​have sporadic or poor school attendance. ​