Human trafficking doesn’t always exist in back alleys or far away countries. In fact, America has a significant human trafficking problem that thrives in many industries across all states. Because of this, human traffickers are smart and go through a great deal of time and effort to conceal their methods, as well as their victims. And this often means human trafficking victims might be hidden and exploited in plain sight.
However, this is not to imply that these criminals are unstoppable, or unrecognizable, there are many signs and ways to identify victims of human trafficking. Naturally, different people have different jobs and, therefore, different types of exposure. But there are many industries in which the signs of human trafficking can be spotted. An area that many people might not be aware of—human trafficking in real estate.
Human Trafficking in Real Estate
Big homes in nice neighborhoods might not shout “human trafficking,” and as a general rule, they shouldn’t. However, this goes back to the notion of hiding in plain sight. It is important to remember that human trafficking relies on the movement of people from place to place. Traffickers tend not to keep victims in a location for too long to avoid their being noticed, and to prevent them from becoming too comfortable or familiar with the surroundings. For this reason, human trafficking in real estate is a prime opportunity for perpetrators.
And real estate doesn’t only refer to homes or private property. On the contrary, there might be an abandoned warehouse that has been on the market for months, just sitting there empty, or seemingly empty. Places such as this are available for traffickers to use, if only temporarily, which is the goal. And as real estate transactions move property from one party to another, this type of activity can cater to human traffickers.
What to Look For
There are many telltale signs of human trafficking in real estate, and though someone might not consider themselves an expert or a watchdog, you should always keep your eyes peeled. Real estate agents should especially be on the lookout for suspicious scenarios, or even persons that seem out of place.
While there are many indicators of human trafficking in real estate, here are some things to be aware of:
- An open house that has an unusually significant amount of traffic moving in and out of it.
- If the seller demands to be present during the time of the showing, and refuses to let the real estate agent be alone or is overly persistent to the real estate agent, then their motives could be questionable.
- If there are school-aged children who are not in school, but rather, they are in a home that is either empty or is having an open house, it is worth inquiring as to why this is the case.
- When tenants or guests of a home or property lack knowledge of the neighborhood or the area, this raises concerns that they are only in this location temporarily, and perhaps not allowed to “explore” the area on their own. Remember, human trafficking victims typically only stay in a single place for a short time before being moved on to another place.
- If a real estate agent (or individual who is looking at a home with an interest to purchase) notices locks on the interior doors or windows, this is a red flag. Even if the house is currently empty, it is worth raising an alarm regarding those who were in this location beforehand.
- If one of the family members seems to stand out from the rest, whether because they dress much differently or perhaps they have a different level of hygiene, or maybe they avoid eye contact with visitors or neighbors unlike the rest of the family, they could be a trafficked victim.
Again, these are only a few of the circumstances that could be cause for alarm, but they should be taken seriously. For real estate agents, human trafficking should be top of mind when looking at a property. It is easy to go through the motions of the job, especially when visiting so many places, but it’s crucial that these signs not be ignored. The problem is far too common for real estate agents to look away.
But this is the same for homeowners and neighbors alike. If there are circumstances, whether those listed above or others that seem out of place, it doesn’t hurt to look into it further.
Join the Fight
There are many hardworking organizations fighting against human trafficking in real estate, but also the horrors of human trafficking in general. From rescue missions to awareness spreading to caring for a survivor that still carries trauma, the work is never done.
But you can also join this fight. In addition to reporting suspicious behavior to local authorities, sign up today and help out an end to human trafficking.