Recognizing the Signs of Human Trafficking

If you search online for the words human trafficking and Superbowl, you might find a result with something along the lines of “the Superbowl is the largest human trafficking event of the year.“ But in reality, any major event will draw out the underground world of forced sex and labor. It runs rampant and traffickers use these events to take advantage of higher revenue from the massive crowds.

During Superbowl weekend, there definitely is an increase of FBI and local law enforcement agents engaging in undercover operations to catch perpetrators and freeing victims. More media campaigns are geared towards raising awareness of the crisis and this all leads to an increase in arrests. The Salvation Army is committed to the fight against human trafficking and we wanted to use this time of heightened awareness help you understand what it is and how you can help. You can help put an end to this modern form of slavery throughout the year and not just during Superbowl weekend.

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

If you witness any of these signs and it raises a red flag to you call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree to 233733.

The modern day slave trade is a multi-billion dollar industry. Worldwide, 40.3 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 the Carolinas but around the world.

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

To learn more about how The Salvation Army is fighting human trafficking in the Carolinas, please visit

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