How to spot human trafficking in your town

How to spot human trafficking in your town

It’s easy to think human trafficking is a problem experienced “over there,” implying it’s not an issue in the United States. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

Human trafficking is alive and well in the US and quite possibly in your town. In light of that, we want to give you some tips on how you can spot human trafficking around you.

This isn’t to say these signs 100% mean someone is being trafficked, but instead if you experience some of these make note of their occurrence and make the smart decision about when it’s time to contact the appropriate authorities.

What to do if you spot human trafficking

Never try to handle the situation on your own. It could put both you and the victim in danger.

If you are in the United States, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 the National Human Trafficking Hotline and explain the situation. If the situation is urgent and you think someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

Potential signs of human trafficking

While these signs are just a start of the list, these are key markers to be on the lookout for as you interact with those in your town.

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution

How to confirm human trafficking

If you happen to be in a situation where you can speak with the potential victim alone, without endangering either of you, here are a few questions you can ask.

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Where do you sleep and eat?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

Another thing to keep in mind human trafficking happens to all ages and all sexes, so don’t just immediately assume someone is safe because they are an adult. 

Human trafficking is a scary topic. It’s one with so many layers that has been portrayed in a thousand ways in tv shows and movies throughout the years. The depth and depravity to which human trafficking can go is a wide extreme - from subtly forcing someone to overwork to selling them to the highest bidder to do with as they please.

As we think through such a harsh topic may we pray Psalm 9:9 for the victims, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”


Credit: Potential signs and questions come from the U.S. Department of State

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