Recognize and Report

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
~ Albert Einstein

Each year, many human trafficking victims are able to escape because neighbors, service providers, community members, or regular citizens like yourself saw warning signs, recognized them, and took appropriate action. There are many signs and tip offs, any one of which might not be cause for concern, but which taken together could very well signal a person who needs help.  Because trafficking in persons is usually an “underground” crime, it can be difficult to identify. Most trafficking victims will not readily volunteer information about their status due to a combination of fear, intimidation, abuse, and psychological controls they’ve suffered at the hands of their trafficker—including threats of retribution to themselves or family members.

Where are Trafficking Victims Likely to be Found?

Sex Trafficking
Victims of sex trafficking are often found on the streets or working in establishments that offer commercial sex acts, either overtly or under some other guise, such as massage parlors, escort services, adult bookstores, modeling studios, and bars/strip clubs.

Labor Trafficking
Victims of labor trafficking can be found in sweatshops (where abusive labor standards are present), commercial agricultural situations (fields, processing plants, canneries), domestic situations (maids, nannies), construction sites (particularly if public access is denied), and in forms of restaurant and custodial work.

Visible Indications of Trafficking

On Location:

  • Heavy security at the commercial establishment including barred windows, locked doors, isolated location, electronic surveillance.
  • Women are never seen leaving the premises unless escorted.
  • Victims live at the same premises as the brothel or work site or are driven between quarters and “work” by a guard.
  • For labor trafficking, victims are often prohibited from leaving the work site, which may look like a guarded compound from the outside.
  • Victims are kept under surveillance when taken to a doctor, hospital or clinic for treatment; trafficker may act as a translator.
  • High foot traffic especially for brothels where there may be trafficked women indicated often by a stream of men arriving or leaving the premises.

Of the Trafficking Victim:

Behavioral Indications

  • Does not hold his/her own identity or travel documents;
  • Suffers from verbal or psychological abuse designed to intimidate, degrade and frighten the individual;
  • Has a trafficker or pimp who controls all the money;
  • Is extremely nervous, especially if their “translator” (who may be their trafficker) is present during an intake.

Physical Indications

  • Malnutrition, dehydration or poor personal hygiene;
  • Sexually transmitted diseases;
  • Signs of rape or sexual abuse
  • Bruising, broken bones, or other signs of untreated medical problems;
  • Critical illnesses including diabetes, cancer or heart disease; and
  • Post-traumatic stress or psychological disorders

Do you suspect someone of being a victim of trafficking?

You can help victims by being aware of the problem. Whether in the United States or traveling abroad, if you suspect you may have come in contact with a victim of trafficking, try to ask any of the following questions:

  • Why did you come here?
  • Who arranged your travel?
  • How did you get here?
  • Do you owe money for your trip?
  • What did you expect when you came?
  • What did you end up doing?
  • Were you scared?
  • Do you have any papers?
  • Who has them?
  • Are you in school?
  • Are you working?
  • What kind of work do you do?
  • Are you paid?
  • Do you owe money to your boss or someone else?
  • Can you leave your job if you want?
  • Where do you live?
  • Who else lives there?
  • Where do you sleep?
  • Are you scared to leave?
  • Has anybody threatened you to keep you from running away?
  • Has anybody ever hurt you to make you stay?
  • Has your family been threatened?


In all cases, if you believe you or the victim are in danger, or that there is an imminent threat to safety, call 911 immediately, give your exact location, explain the circumstances, and stay on the phone until instructed otherwise.

In the absence of an immediate threat, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) is a national, toll-free hotline, available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.  The NHTRC is a program of Polaris Project, a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  They do not represent a government entity, law enforcement or immigration. You may call anonymously and translation services are available in many languages.  This hotline will help you determine if you have encountered victims of human trafficking.  It will identify local resources available in your community to help victims and help you coordinate with local social service organizations to help protect victims, as well as begin the process of restoring their lives.

Call NHTRC: 1-888-3737-888

  • To report a tip;
  • To connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or,
  • To request training and technical assistance, general information or specific anti-trafficking resources.

Llama la línea gratuita y confidencial: 1-888-3737-888

  • Denunciar casos de trata;
  • Conectarse con servicios en su localidad;
  • Pedir información o recursos en español sobre la trata de personas y la esclavitud moderna.

If you have information about the commercial sexual exploitation of a child in the U.S. or abroad, notify U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement at 1-866-DHS-2ICE, or contact your local FBI field office, or report at which is the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Important: If you suspect the child is a victim, contact reliable authorities. While traveling oversees, it is absolutely necessary to use caution in contacting law enforcement because, in many countries, corruption plays a central role in the ability of traffickers to operate. Consequently, reporting cases to the authorities in many countries should be done only after discussions with nongovernmental organizations knowledgeable on the trafficking situation in the country.

Redlight Traffic’s mobile phone application to recognize and report

U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign

DHS Awareness Training

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