Warning Signs of Human Trafficking
Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse.
Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement.
Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction.
Lacking official identification documents.
Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Every year, human trafficking victims across the U.S. go unnoticed because we don’t always recognize the crime when we see it. Knowing what to be aware of can help bring victims out of the shadows and save their lives. Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It exists in two primary forms: sex trafficking and forced labor. Regardless of which form it takes, human trafficking involves exploitation and profit at the expense of an individual. It is a crime that generates billions of dollars a year and affects millions of people globally.
By the Numbers
A total of 2,198 persons were referred to U.S. Attorneys for human trafficking offenses in fiscal year 2020, a 62% increase from the 1,360 persons referred in 2011.
The number of persons prosecuted for human trafficking increased from 729 in 2011 to 1,343 in 2020, an 84% increase.
The number of persons convicted of a federal human trafficking offense increased from 2011 (464 persons) to 2019 (837 persons), before falling in 2020 (658 persons).
Of the 1,169 defendants charged in U.S. district court with human trafficking offenses in fiscal year 2020—
92% were male
63% were white
18% were black
17% were Hispanic
95% were U.S. citizens
66% had no prior convictions.
At yearend 2020, for the 47 states that reported data, 1,564 persons were in the custody of a state prison serving a sentence for a human trafficking offense.
Human Trafficking Data Collection Activities, 2022
Myths and Misconceptions
Fact: Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States. It exists nationwide—in cities, suburbs, and rural towns—and possibly in your own community.
Myth: Human Trafficking doesn't happen in the US. It only happens in other countries
Fact: Human trafficking victims can be of any age, race, gender, or nationality. They may come from any socioeconomic group. A socioeconomic group is an individual's social standing or class. It is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation.
Myth: Human Trafficking victims are foreign born or and those who are poor.
Myth: Human Trafficking is only sex trafficking.
Fact: Sex trafficking exists, but it is not the only type of human trafficking. Forced labor is another type of human trafficking; both involve the exploitation of people. Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, hotels, and domestic service.
Fact: Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18 who is induced to perform commercial sex acts is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.
Myth: Individuals must be forced or coerced into commercial sex acts to be victims of human trafficking.
Fact: Human trafficking is often a hidden crime. Victims may be afraid to come forward and get help; they may be forced or coerced through threats or violence; they may fear retribution from traffickers, including danger to their families; and they may not be in possession of or have control of their identification documents.
Myth: Human trafficking victims will attempt to get help when in public.
Fact: Human trafficking is not the same as smuggling. “Trafficking” is based on exploitation and does not require movement across borders. “Smuggling” is based on movement and involves moving a person across a country’s border with that person’s consent in violation of immigration laws. Although human smuggling is very different from human trafficking, human smuggling can turn into trafficking if the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion to hold people against their will for the purposes of labor or sexual exploitation. Under federal law, every minor induced to engage in commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking.
Myth: Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same thing.
To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH), call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
The NHTH can help connect victims with service providers in the area and provides training, technical assistance, and other resources.
The NHTH is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.
The NHTH is not a law enforcement or immigration authority and is operated by a nongovernmental organization funded by the Federal government.
Department of Homeland Security
About the Blue Campaign
State Department Press Releases
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Office for Victims of Crime: Human Trafficking