Know the Signs of Human Trafficking

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The Indicators of Human Trafficking

There are several indicators that can help identify potential trafficking victims. Being able to recognize red flags and possible indicators is the first step to rescuing the victim and arresting their trafficker.

Human trafficking can happen in plain sight, and it’s not always easy to notice it when it occurs.

For sex trafficking specifically, victims may be staying in brothels, massage parlors, strip clubs, motels, or hidden apartments. Victims of child labor and exploitation may have originally run away from home or been placed in foster care.

Signs of physical abuse or abhorrent living conditions may indicate criminality. Additionally, individuals who aren’t allowed to speak freely or whose responses feel scripted may be in danger. 

Please click on the following indicators to learn more.

 Indicators are not all-encompassing. Every human trafficking victim is different. Victims may exhibit only one of these indicators, or they may exhibit several.

  • Not in control of their own ID or passport. 
  • Not allowed or able to speak for themselves, refusal to make eye contact
  • Has little personal property/wears the same clothes over and over again, or carries belongings in a trash bag. 
  • Paid mostly in cash, not in control of their money/no financial records or bank account
  • Recruited with false promises concerning the nature and conditions of their work. 
  • Unpaid or paid very little by cash tips off the record. 
  • Has a pimp, manager or someone who will not leave their side. 
  • Not free to leave or come and go as they wish. 
  • Works long and/or unusual hours.
  • Has a large debt that cannot be paid off. 
  • Is under the age of 18 and performing sex acts in exchange for anything of value. 
  • Exchanging commercial sex acts for needs like shelter, food, or other means of survival. 
  • Fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous, or paranoid. 
  • Appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Overly attached to one person or has one person overly attached to them. 
  • Needs permission or direction to make simple decisions, such as going to the bathroom. 
  • Show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture like bruises, cuts, etc. 
  • Has branding scars such as burns or tattoos with crowns or money symbols. 
  • No access to healthcare, or unable to access healthcare without supervision. 
  • Appears malnourished or extremely skinny. 

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, always report suspicious behavior and/or illegal activity to law enforcement. 

Never attempt to rescue a victim, confront a suspected trafficker directly, or alert a victim to any suspicions. 

It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking. 

DeliverFund cannot take tips from the public. Please always contact law enforcement and they will contact DeliverFund for assistance. 

  • What are the indicators? How are they acting? What do they look like? Where are they? Who are they with? 
  • Covertly take down vehicle information and plate numbers. Note the time. Record the address of where the encounter occurred. 
  • Contact local law enforcement and provide them with all the details you have. Call 911 if you are witnessing an emergency situation. 

Human Trafficker

Grooming Signs

Human traffickers use any tool available to them to connect with potential victims. Contrary to popular belief, these predators rarely kidnap victims, but rather employ psychological manipulation to get what they want. The following are some of the signs of grooming for human trafficking employed by traffickers.

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#1 The Hunt Begins

Targeting a Victim

Human traffickers use any tools available to them to make a connection to potential victims, such as social media, video gaming consoles, and chat rooms.

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#2 Scouting Victims

Ideal Characteristics

The traffickers often search for specific characteristics that make a victim the most vulnerable. This includes emotional neediness, low self-confidence, and economic stress.

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#3 Manipulation

Gaining Trust

While looking for the role they can play in a victim's life, traffickers work to obtain trust from the victim through casual conversations over weeks and sometimes over months. Traffickers also send their current victims to interact with potential victims in order to gain trust. These girls essentially act as scouts for the trafficker.

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#4 Dependency

Filling a Need

The traffickers utilize the information they gathered to fill a role in the victim's life. Through gifts, love, friendship, drugs, or alcohol, traffickers force the victims into a dependent relationship.

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#5 Trapping the Victim

Forced Isolation

With their new role in the victim's life, traffickers wedge themselves between the victim and those closest to them--their friends and family.

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#6 Abusive Behavior

Maintain Control

The traffickers claim a service they offered must be repaid (providing drugs, alcohol, car rides, or cell phones, for instance). They typically demand sex as payment. Then, through threats, violence, fear, or blackmail, the traffickers maintain full control over the victim.

It Happens Here

But with DeliverFund, it can end here.

Donate to join the fight against human trafficking.

The Four Stages of Grooming

The ultimate goal of a human trafficker is to gain access and the trust of a potential victim. Sometimes this takes place over weeks or months. ⁠⠀
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The UK nonprofit organization Barnardo’s created a model called the ‘Grooming Line,’ which identifies the different tactics a perpetrator may use to groom someone. ⁠⠀

1. The Targeting Stage
Observing the target
Selection of victim
Befriending the victim, being nice, giving gifts, taking an interest, giving compliments, etc.
Gaining and developing trust
Sharing information about a target amongst other predators
2. Friendship Forming Stage
Making the victim feel special
Giving gifts and rewards
Spending time together
Keeping secrets
Being there for them
'No one understands you like I do'
Being their best friend
Testing out physical contact, accidental touching
Offering protection
3. Loving Relationship Stage
Being their boyfriend/girlfriend
Establishing a sexual relationship
Lowering their inhibitions - eg. showing them pornography
Engaging them in forbidden activities - eg. going to clubs, doing drugs, drinking
Being inconsistent - building up hope then pushing them away
4. Abusive Relationship Stage
Becomes an 'unloving' sexual relationship
Withdrawal of love and friendship
Reinforcing dependency on them - stating the victim is 'damaged goods'
Isolation from family and friends
Trickery and manipulation: 'You owe me'
Threatening behavior
Sexual assault
Making them have sex with other people
Giving them drugs
Playing on the victim's feeling of guilt, shame, and fear
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Recognizing grooming behaviors early can mean averting potential disaster. It is paramount that the public, and parents and guardians in particular, remain educated not only on the tools and apps children are using every day, but also on how to recognize grooming behaviors and safely navigate the internet.

To learn about how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, click here

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Where to Report Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Worldwide, more than 20 million people are held captive and trafficked each year. In the United States, a child is taken by human traffickers every 2.5 hours.

The issue is too fatal to ignore, and your help is needed now more than ever.

You can report any suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 378-7888 or to your local law enforcement, and donate to DeliverFund to end human trafficking once and for all.

Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking

In our lifetime, we have the ability to put criminals and captors out of business. By joining a coalition of organizations, public initiatives, and governmental campaigns, we can stop trafficking before it occurs, reconnect survivors to their loved ones, and bring to justice the predators in society.

You can do your part in a number of ways:

Start a Campaign

With DeliverFund, you can start your own fundraisers and lead your own communities to help bring an end to human trafficking.

Raise Awareness

Your voice, your vote, and your time matter. Through social media, public activism, and general education, you can bring attention to some of the most heinous crimes people in our world experience every day.

Support Investigators

Governments and law enforcement across the world are doing their best to combat human trafficking, even though communication between different law enforcement departments and jurisdictions across the country could be more efficient and less siloed.

This tends to happen since accurate human trafficking data is difficult to procure and different organizations and departments report things differently.

DeliverFund is an independent nonprofit organization that uses cutting-edge technology to bring more power to the fight against human trafficking.

Donate and Join the Fight

Every dollar counts. You can make one-time or recurring donations to bring survivors back home and track down their captors.

Where Human Trafficking Occurs

Trafficking can occur anywhere. As mentioned above, some locations are more common than others; however, victims of trafficking are usually restricted from physically or vocally expressing themselves by their captors, who are often disguised as employers, landlords, or guardians, or boyfriends. 

Victims are transported via car, bus, train, boat and plane, sometimes appearing fine on the surface. While many people associate human trafficking with underdeveloped nations, the problem is actually far worse in America.

Dollar for dollar, the U.S. has a $975 million human trafficking market, which grows every year. About 150,000 people are currently held as commercial sex slaves within the U.S., and 50% of trafficking victims are children. 96% are female.

Who Is Most Vulnerable to Human Trafficking?

While anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, some populations are more at risk than others. Vulnerability is further exacerbated by ecological disasters, regime change, war, terrorism, and corrupt governments.

The following groups of people tend to make up the majority of human trafficking cases:

  • Children and teens without homes. 
  • Children and teens in and out of foster care or juvenile facilities.
  • Individuals with a history of substance abuse or mental illness.
  • Survivors of past forms of violence.
  • People with disabilities.
  • Refugees, migrant workers or individuals or who don’t speak local languages.
  • People with little to no recognized or upheld civil rights.
  • Individuals with disabilities.

Make a Difference Today

You can report human trafficking anonymously online, via text or via call, using the National Human Trafficking Hotline within the U.S.

Contact 1 (888) 378-7888.

Reporting suspected human trafficking is one of the most impactful and direct ways to end violence and disrupt slave markets. Leave no victim behind, and help deliver the change you wish to see in the world. To get involved, join the fight with DeliverFund.

Together, we can make a difference. One case at a time.