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What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor or a commercial sex act. All commercial sex involving a minor is legally considered human trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion.

Victims can be anyone – regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status. Similarly, perpetrators of this crime also vary. Traffickers can be family members, partners, acquaintances, and strangers. They can act alone or as part of an organized criminal enterprise.

Language barriers and/or fear of their traffickers often keep victims from seeking help, making human trafficking a crime hidden in plain sight. 

Signs of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking victims are often overlooked because people do not recognize the signs of human trafficking. 

Recognizing the indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying potential victims. Human traffickers often use transportation systems to recruit and move victims. Bus stations, truck stops, rest areas, and transit centers are all places where human trafficking can occur. 

When drivers know what to look for, they can serve as a community's eyes, ears, and voice. When you see indicators of human trafficking, especially more than one, report your suspicion— you could help someone find their road to freedom. When at transit stations, on the move, stopping for gas, at rest stops, and at your final destination, ask yourself the questions below when presented with a potential trafficking situation. Note that all indicators listed below are not present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking. If you notice something, don’t dismiss the feeling. Trust your instincts.

If you see (or suspect) any indicators of human trafficking, assess the situation. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker or engage with a victim, and call 9-1-1 if someone is in immediate danger.

Download our handy indicator cards that list common signs to help commercial vehicle drivers and others recognize human trafficking.

Download Indicator Cards

How to Report Human Trafficking

Be willing to take a second look, trust your instincts, and make the confidential call or text. Real-time reports help local authorities intervene quicker. Some people tend not to report over the fear of being wrong—that should never be considered.

If you see (or suspect) any indicators of human trafficking, assess the situation. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker or engage with a victim. Instead, please contact local law enforcement directly. Report to:

  • 9-1-1, if someone is in immediate danger.
  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline. (Línea Directa Nacional de Trata de Personas)
    • Call 888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). (Texto 233733 o BEFREE)
    • This hotline is a national, toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The hotline is operated by a nongovernmental organization funded by the federal government; it is not a law enforcement or immigration authority.
  • Your company/organization.
    • Follow your company’s reporting policy if they have one in place.

When describing the suspected human trafficking situation, describe specifically what you observed, including:

  • Who or what you saw (physical identifiers, nicknames overheard).
  • When you saw it (date and time).
  • Where it occurred (where you noticed the suspicious activity and any movement, if applicable).
  • Why it’s suspicious.