Spotting the Signs: Identifying and Reporting Suspected Human Trafficking Cases


Human trafficking is an atrocious crime against humanity that exploits people using force, fraud, or coercion. Sometimes called “modern-day slavery,” experts estimate human trafficking victimizes more than 40 million people. It may seem like it happens elsewhere, but it occurs worldwide and often in plain sight. While certain people are more likely to become victims of human traffickers, anyone can fall prey to unscrupulous traffickers.

Governments and organizations are working hard to eliminate human trafficking. However, everyone can play a significant role in preventing this heinous crime. Being able to spot the signs of human trafficking and knowing how to report it can save lives. Continue reading to learn more about spotting the signs and the steps to report suspected human trafficking.


The Many Forms of Human Trafficking

There are many forms of human trafficking, some more well-known than others. However, they all victimize people. 

  • Forced Labor: Millions of people are forced to work under the threat of violence and for no pay, treated as property, and exploited to create a product for commercial sale.
  • Bonded Labor: Individuals in the millions are compelled to work to repay a debt and cannot leave until the debt is repaid.
  • Child Labor: Millions of children under 18 are enslaved—whether forced labor, domestic servitude, bonded labor, or sex trafficking.
  • Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: Millions of women, men, and children are forced into the commercial sex industry and held against their will by force, fraud, or coercion.
  • Forced and Child Marriage: Each year, millions of girls are forced to marry without consent or against their will before 18.
  • Domestic Servitude: Employees working in private homes are forced or coerced into serving and fraudulently convinced that they have no option to leave.


Signs of Human Trafficking

There are general signs to look for, but it’s important to note that not all victims of trafficking will display the same indicators. Recognizing the signs of human trafficking is crucial in aiding its victims.


Physical Health Signs

  • Unexplained injuries or signs of prolonged physical abuse
  • Untreated health problems
  • Signs of physical restraint or confinement


Mental Health and Behavior Signs

  • Severe anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Unusually fearful of submissive behavior, especially in the presence of others
  • Unwillingness or inability to speak openly, or scripted responses in social interactions
  • Inconsistencies in their story, obvious gaps, inability to provide details about their background


Control and Coercion

  • Lack of personal possessions, identification documents, or financial records
  • Not in control of their money, no bank account
  • Always accompanied by another individual who seems to control them or speak for them


Work Conditions and Living Situations

  • Unexplained or sudden changes in behavior, school performance, or daily routines
  • Living in poor conditions or excessively secure places
  • Working extremely long hours or under unusual conditions


How to Report Human Trafficking

If you recognize one or more of these signs and suspect trafficking, it’s essential to report it to the authorities. Never approach traffickers or put yourself or the victims at risk. Leave it to the professionals. Also, remember it’s better to report a suspicion that turns out to be incorrect than to ignore a situation that may be life-threatening to someone. Your vigilance can make all the difference!


In the United States:

  • Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BEFREE). It’s a confidential, 24/7 service with interpreters available for over 200 languages
  • Contact local law enforcement. In emergencies, always call 911



In Canada:


In Europe:



Awareness and education are critical in the fight against human trafficking. By understanding the signs and knowing how to report them, you can help stop human trafficking and potentially save lives.


Help Us Provide Hope 

Human trafficking is an overwhelming issue. One person alone can’t stop it, but we can make a difference together. Your contributions help our committed staff and volunteers work 365 days a year to fight human trafficking and support survivors. Every donation can change the life of someone victimized by human trafficking. No matter the size, every effort can deliver help and hope to the most vulnerable. 

The generosity of our supporters has helped us provide a safe life for people who were once victims of trafficking, including shelter, food, and medical care for those in need. Together, we can change and save lives!