The list of signs and symptoms of human trafficking below is not exhaustive. With only a few exceptions any one of these signs does not necessarily mean the person is a victim of human trafficking. Use your best judgment. If something seems suspicious, make an anonymous call to the Human Trafficking Hotline 888-373-7888.

Common Work and Living Conditions

The individual…

Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
Is under 18 years of age and is providing commercial sex acts
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 unusual restrictions at work
Owes a large and/or increasing debt and is unable to pay it off
Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
Is living or working in a location with high-security measures (e.g. opaque or boarded-up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.).

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior

The Individual(s)…

Exhibits unusually fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid behavior
Reacts with unusually fearful or anxious behavior at any reference to “law enforcement”
Avoids eye contact
Exhibits a flat affect

Poor Physical Health

The Individual(s)…

Exhibits unexplained injuries or signs of prolonged/untreated illness or disease
Appears malnourished
Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control

The Individual(s)…

Has few or no personal possessions
Is not in control of his/her own money, and/or has no financial records, or bank account
Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (e.g. ID, passport, or visa)
Is not allowed or able to speak for him/herself (e.g., a third party may insist on being present and/orinterpreting)
Has an attorney that he/she doesn’t seem to know or to have agreed to receive representation services from


The Individual(s)…
Has been “branded” by a trafficker (tattoo of a name or $)
Claims to be “just visiting” and is unable to clarify where he/she is staying or to provide an address
Exhibits a lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or does not know what city he/she is in
Exhibits a loss of a sense of time
Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
*Provided by Polaris Project