Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking

Jan 11, 2022

The Salvation Army is committed to the fight against human trafficking. January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, so we're providing a resource to help you understand what human trafficking is and how you can help put an end to this modern form of slavery.

What is human trafficking?

The department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”

Human trafficking is everywhere and anyone from any background can fall victim to it. Noticing the signs and having the hotline number readily available can help save a life or lives.

Signs of human trafficking

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 excessively 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 (e.g. 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 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

The signs of human trafficking are universal and taken from the Polaris Project website. More about recognizing the signs and facts about human trafficking can be found at

Report Suspicious Behavior or Get Help

If you witness any of these signs or red flags, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Individuals who need help may also call this hotline.

The modern day slave trade is a multi-billion dollar industry. Worldwide, more than 40 million individuals are trafficked for labor, sexual exploitation, and profit. This problem is global — it reaches from the most distant shores to our very own neighborhoods. From the beginning, The Salvation Army has opposed the dehumanization of others in all of its forms. Join us in the fight to ending human trafficking not only in your community but around the world.

Our Action Plan to Fight Human Trafficking

Learn more about how The Salvation Army is fighting human trafficking.

One Way You Can Help Today: Pray

If you'd like, you can join us by reciting the prayer below on behalf of those tangled in the human trafficking industry today and those who have survived. Please know that your voice is part of a chorus, lifted up together, and that these prayers will be heard.

Dear God, we come to you today to lift up the children, women and men affected by human trafficking. For those who are without their freedom, we pray that it would be restored to them. For those whose freedom has been restored, we pray that you would work in their hearts and minds to provide wholeness and healing from the trauma these experiences have caused. For those who are missing a loved one, we pray for your supernatural peace and that you would hold their loved one in your hands each day, never leaving their side. We pray for an end to this practice. That no more would be taken. That restoration be possible in our neighborhoods, our cities, our country and around the world. In your name we pray, Amen.

Thank you for joining us in prayer today.  If you need prayer today too, you can submit a prayer request and we'll pray for you.


Portions of this story were original published here and adapted for use by The Salvation Army of the Midwest.

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