Know the Signs


People who have been trafficked may:

  • Believe that they must work against their will
  • Be unable to leave their work environment
  • Show signs that their movements are being controlled
  • Feel that they cannot leave
  • Show fear or anxiety
  • Be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members and loved ones
  • Suffer injuries that appear to be the result of an assault
  • Suffer injuries or impairments typical of certain jobs or control measures
  • Suffer injuries that appear to be the result of the application of control measures
  • Be distrustful of the authorities
  • Be threatened with being handed over to the authorities
  • Be afraid of revealing their immigration status
  • Not be in possession of their passports or other travel or identity documents, as those documents are being held by someone else
  • Have false identity or travel documents
  • Be found in or connected to a type of location likely to be used
  • for exploiting people
  • Act as if they were instructed by someone else
  • Be unfamiliar with the local language
  • Be disciplined through punishment
  • Be unable to negotiate working conditions
  • Receive little or no payment
  • Have no access to their earnings
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods
  • Not have any days off
  • Live in poor or substandard accommodations
  • Have no access to medical care
  • Have limited or no social interaction
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • Be unable to communicate freely with others
  • Be under the perception that they are bonded by debt
  • Be in a situation of dependence
  • Come from a place known to be a source of human trafficking
  • Have had the fees for their transport to the country of destination paid for by facilitators, whom they must payback by working or providing services in the destination
  • Have acted on the basis of false promises
  • Not know their home or work address
  • Allow others to speak for them when addressed directly

People who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation may:

  • Be of any age, although the age may vary according to the location and the market
  • Move from one brothel to the next or work in various locations
  • Be escorted whenever they go to and return from work and other outside activities
  • Have tattoos or other marks indicating “ownership” by their exploiters
  • Work long hours or have few if any days off
  • Sleep where they work
  • Live or travel in a group, sometimes with other women who do not speak the same language
  • Have very few items of clothing
  • Have clothes that are mostly the kind typically worn for doing sex work
  • Only know how to say sex-related words in the local language or in the language of the client group
  • Have no cash of their own
  • Be unable to show an identity document
People who have been trafficked for labor exploitation may:

  • Live in groups in the same place where they work and leave those premises infrequently, if at all
  • Live in degraded, unsuitable places, such as in agricultural or industrial buildings
  • Not be dressed adequately for the work they do: for example, they may lack protective equipment or warm clothing
  • Be given only leftovers to eat
  • Have no access to their earnings
  • Have no labor contract
  • Work excessively long hours
  • Depend on their employer for a number of services, including work, transportation and accommodation
  • Have no choice of accommodation
  • Never leave the work premises without their employer
  • Be unable to move freely
  • Be subject to security measures designed to keep them on the
  • work premises
  • Be disciplined through fines
  • Be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence

**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
For additional indicators of human trafficking please visit: