Here’s a list of indicators and follow-up questions if you think you have spotted a potential trafficked person. I remember wondering, “What do I do if I think I see someone who is trafficked?” I felt helpless thinking there was nothing I could do. But, there is. A few follow-up questions could have given me a better idea of the person’s situation. Granted, language barriers can be an issue and you may think it would be too difficult to try to communicate with someone. But if you sense something is not right, chances are your gut is right. Don’t ignore the problem.
Courtesy of US Dept. of State:
Everyone has the potential to discover a human trafficking situation. While the victims may sometimes be kept behind locked doors, they are often hidden right in front of us at, for example, construction sites, restaurants, elder care centers, nail salons, agricultural fields, and hotels. Traffickers’ use of coercion – such as threats of deportation and harm to the victim or their family members – is so powerful that even if you reach out to victims, they may be too fearful to accept your help. Knowing indicators of human trafficking and some follow up questions will help you act on your gut feeling that something is wrong and report it.
Human Trafficking Indicators
While not an exhaustive list, these are some key red flags that could alert you to a potential trafficking situation that should be reported:
- 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
Questions to Ask
Assuming you have the opportunity to speak with a potential victim privately and without jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker is watching, here are some sample questions to ask to follow up on the red flags you became alert to:
- 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?
Where to Get Help
If you believe you have identified someone still in the trafficking situation, alert law enforcement immediately at the numbers provided below. It may be unsafe to attempt to rescue a trafficking victim. You have no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate against the victim and you. If, however, you identify a victim who has escaped the trafficking situation, there are a number of organizations to whom the victim could be referred for help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance, and other critical services. In this case, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below.
For urgent situations, notify local law enforcement immediately by calling 911. You may also want to alert the National Human Trafficking Resource Center described below so that they can ensure response by law enforcement officials knowledgeable about human trafficking.
1-888-3737-888 National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a national 24-hour, toll-free, multilingual anti-trafficking hotline. Call 1-888-3737-888 to report a tip; connect with anti-trafficking services in your area; or request training and technical assistance, general information, or specific anti-trafficking resources. The Center is equipped to handle calls from all regions of the United States from a wide range of callers including, but not limited to: potential trafficking victims, community members, law enforcement, medical professionals, legal professionals, service providers, researchers, students, and policymakers.
1-888-428-7581 U.S. Department of Justice Worker Exploitation Complaint Line
Call the U.S. Department of Justice’s dedicated human trafficking toll-free complaint line at 1-888-428-7581 (weekdays 9 AM – 5 PM EST) to report suspected instances of human trafficking or worker exploitation or contact the FBI field office nearest you .This call is toll-free and offers foreign language translation services in most languages as well as TTY. After business hours, the complaint line has a message service in English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin.
*If you find yourself overseas with this problem, here is a list of global hotline phone numbers: