Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

There are a number of red flags, or indicators, which can help you identify human trafficking. Recognizing the signs is the first step in identifying victims.
Each red flag focuses on the traffickers' methods of control and can be broken down into categories: personal documents, wages, safety, freedom, and working and living conditions. Think of these categories as pieces of a puzzle. Any method in any category can give a trafficker control. However, the methods can be interrelated and combining them can lead to total control over the victim.
Select each red flag category to learn more about the methods of controlling potential victims.

Personal Documents

When traffickers take victims' personal documents, such as identification papers and/or travel documents, this effectively restricts victims' freedom of movement and opportunity.


Traffickers often control victims by prohibiting them from controlling their own money.
Another method is not paying them what was promised.
This makes it is more difficult to pay off debts, which means traffickers are able to exercise more control over the victims.
Traffickers will also withhold pay completely for a victim's work. Control over a victim's pay can sometimes be the result of the victim working to pay off a debt.


Human traffickers will control victims by threatening potential victims or their families with harm.
Potential victims may have bruises or other signs of physical abuse.
Victims will also be threatened with deportation or arrest in order to control them.
If you find that potential victims appear fearful, this could mean a red flag should be raised.


When a potential victim defers to another person to speak for him or her, or appears to have been coached on what to say to authorities, it can be an indicator of human trafficking.
Additionally, if a potential victim isn't allowed to socialize and communicate with family, friends, or at community events, this is also a red flag that the person is being controlled.

Working & Living Conditions

The working and living conditions may present red flags.
For example, you may note that potential victims in the workplace express that they aren't doing the job they expected.
You may also notice the victims appear deprived of food, water, sleep, and/or medical care as well as satisfactory living conditions.
Red flags are clearly indicated when minors are engaged in commercial sex.