The Signs of Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking is one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time!

The international labor organization estimates that there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands right here in the United States. Human trafficking doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, gender, ethnicity, community, or socio-economic background - women and children are often the vulnerable victims.

In order to truly combat human trafficking, everyone needs to have a clear understanding of the signs and report them – especially those working in hotel management.

The hospitality industry has an important role to play in helping to stop Human Trafficking.

Per the No Vacancy for Child Sex Traffickers Impact Report, pimps often rent rooms in hotels, then go online to create advertisements in adult sexual services pages, and then sell victims in the hotel room, or have them meet purchasers at nearby hotels. Since hotel employees are more likely to witness human trafficking than others, they can be trained to recognize and report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.

By providing awareness tools about human trafficking – you could prevent the sexual exploitation of children. Hotel managers who have undergone training are more aware of child sex trafficking when it happens, or more willing to report it, than those who have not been trained.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs everywhere in the world. It involves the exploitation of someone for the purposes of constrained labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Not all victims are concealed behind locked doors in brothels and factories, some are in plain view and may even interact with their community.

As defined by the U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:

  1. Children under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex.
  2. Adults (age 18 or over) induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion.
  3. Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion. 

Too often the widespread lack of awareness and understanding of trafficking leads to low levels of victim identification. Everyone can help to reduce sex trafficking in their communities by recognizing the warning signs and reporting them.

The following is a list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking to help you recognize the signs. If you see any of these red flags, contact the  National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 for specialized victim services referrals or to report the situation. Learn more about reporting potential human trafficking situations here.

The red flags below may not be present in all trafficking cases:
Common Work and Living Conditions:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High-security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (example: opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
  • Avoids eye contact

Poor Physical Health:

  • Lacks medical care and/or is denied medical services by the employer
  • Appears malnourished or shows signs of repeated exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control:

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or of what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

Note: According to federal law, any minor under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex is a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.

Shop Safety Poster for eye-capturing human trafficking posters and help others recognize the signs today!