Indicators of Human Trafficking

There are a wide variety of indicators of human trafficking. Some of these signs are similar to signs of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and others are unique to human trafficking. Knowing the signs of human trafficking will allow you to better identify potential victims. Below is a list of possible indicators.

Indicators of Human Trafficking

Explore the possible indicators by selecting the arrows.

Physical Indicators

  • Lack of basic medical care
  • Brands, tattoos, and/or piercings
  • Bruises, cuts, scrapes, and/or burns
  • Often tired or lethargic
  • Frequent sexually transmitted diseases/ infections

Behavioral Indicators

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Erratic, defensive, aggressive, or defiant behavior
  • Appears depressed, withdrawn, fearful, timid, submissive, and/or anxious
  • Uses language associated with trafficking
  • Increase in drug or alcohol use
  • Signs of self-harm
  • Signs of eating disorders

Social-Environmental Indicators

  • Age-inappropriate boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Presence of another person who seems controlling or insists on speaking for them
  • Restricted or scripted communication
  • Does not control their own schedule
  • Works long hours and/or works under poor conditions
  • Sudden change in friends, dress, and/or appearance

Academic Indicators

  • Frequent absences from school
  • Is academically unengaged, is unable to focus, and/or has failing grades
  • Sudden change in friend group at school


  • Shame, self-blame, guilt, and low self-esteem
  • Gaps in memory or inconsistencies in story
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Depression and/or anxiety disorders
  • Appears unaware of date, time, or physical location
  • Has advanced sexual knowledge for their age


  • Does not have control over their own money, financial record, or bank account
  • Possesses large amounts of cash
  • Debt to their employer
  • Receives little to no pay for their work
  • Does not have control over their personal documents (e.g., passport, driver’s license, visa)

watch for signs of human trafficking

Remember that victims may not always speak out for fear they will suffer consequences from the traffickers. We can help improve others’ ability to report human trafficking by bringing awareness to this crime, including the increasing awareness of human trafficking and its indicators and red flags.