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Trafficking usually involves deep deception and manipulation, sometimes so deep that a person does not know they are being trafficked even as it is happening to them.

Our transit monitors are trained to spot signs of trafficking and then confirm evidence via interviews, but sometimes it takes hours of counseling to help someone see the danger they could have been walking into. The following list was developed from the red flags that our monitors look for as they talk with potential victims. 

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I have vulnerabilities that make me more willing to believe things that I would otherwise dismiss as too good to be true. Some of these vulnerabilities could include:


  • I don’t have enough income to pay rent or buy food.
  • I am a single mother with children to take care of.
  • I am under the age of 18 and don’t have familial support.
  • I don’t have many friends or a strong community.
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Someone outside of my family has offered me a good job, even though I am underqualified.
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Someone has offered to arrange and cover my transportation to the promised job. Additional red flags may include:
  • I don’t know where I am going.
  • They’ve taken my identification documents or passport.
  • I don’t have the necessary visa.
  • I don’t speak the language where I am going.
  • I don’t know anyone where I am going.
  • People at home don’t know I am leaving.
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I’ve been love-bombed by someone and fallen in love with them very quickly (in a matter of weeks). I feel I would do anything to keep this person’s love.
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Someone has proposed to me, even though we’ve only known each other a few weeks.
Revised_Red_Flag_icon copy-1 My significant other becomes angry and/or violent with me if I refuse to do something I’m asked.
Revised_Red_Flag_icon copy-1 My significant other asks me to have sex with or perform for other people. 
Revised_Red_Flag_icon copy-1 Someone has taken my cell phone or otherwise isolated me from my friends/family.
Revised_Red_Flag_icon copy-1 I owe someone a debt I cannot repay. 
Revised_Red_Flag_icon copy-1 I work a job, but I don’t get to keep the profits. Someone else keeps the profit and pays for my needs.

It can be hard to believe that something is false when you really, really want it to be true. When someone is offering you a better life, you don’t want to turn that down—especially if you believe you’re in love with the person offering. 

If you identify with multiple things on this list but still feel unsure that trafficking is happening, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 inside the U.S. In the UK call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the police on 101. In an emergency always call 999. 

SA: Report any suspected cases of trafficking by contacting: South African Police Services (SAPS) 10111, Department of Social Development (DSD) Hotline on 0800 220 250 or National Human Trafficking Hotline on 0800 222 777.

and talk with someone. There are plenty of people ready to help if you need it. 

If you are traveling soon, take these precautions to avoid traffickers along the way: 

  • Tell family/friends where you are going and when, and check in with them at each travel point.
  • Be wary of strangers befriending you or offering you help while you are traveling.
  • Try not to look lost, even if you are. Walk with purpose and keep a straight face.
  • Don’t give anyone your documentation (other than official customs agents). Bring a couple extra copies of your passport/ID.
  • Make sure taxis or other rides are legitimate. Ask to see their license if you’re not sure—snap a picture of it and send it to someone.

How do you know if a job offer is legitimate?

  • Research the company online. Contact them directly to ask if they are hiring and what their recruitment process is. Ask if the person contacting you is in their employee database. 
  • Don’t take a job without talking to a real individual—either in person, on the phone, or by Zoom/other video conferencing. If you have only communicated by messaging, don’t accept the position.
  • Don’t rush. If an employer is pressuring you to make a decision right away or wants to hire you without an application or an interview, it might be fake. Even employers with a time crunch will want to ensure they are hiring the right people. Ask for 24 hours to make a decision.
  • Be wary of vague job descriptions, odd requests for information or payment, and lofty promises of quick wealth. Ask for specific details.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be skeptical and fact-check everything you can. If they are legitimate, they will help you confirm the details you need. If they refuse to confirm or come up with excuses … that’s a no.

If you think you or someone you know might be in danger of being trafficked, please dial 911 in the United States. You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Take a closer look at our strategy to stop traffickers

*All data and statistics current at the date and time of publishing. Names changed and some specific locations excluded for privacy and security purposes.

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