Signs that a Person Might be Trafficked

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime developed a comprehensive list of trafficking indicators (PDF) to help the public recognize the signs a person may have been trafficked. Some of these indicators are listed below.

See our online course, Human Trafficking: Canada is Not Immune for a full list of indicators.

A person may be trafficked if they:

  • Cannot leave their job to find another one
  • Do not have control over their wages or money
  • Work but do not get paid normal wages
  • Have no choice about hours worked or other working conditions
  • Work long hours, lives at a work site, or is picked up and driven to and from work
  • Show signs of physical abuse or injury
  • Are accompanied everywhere by someone who speaks for him/her
  • Appear to be fearful of and or under the control of another person
  • May have health issues that have not been attended to
  • Owe money to their employer or another person who they feel honour bound to repay
  • May describe moving or changing jobs suddenly and often
  • Are unfamiliar with the neighbourhood where they live or work
  • Are not working in the job originally promised to them
  • Are travelling with minimal or inappropriate luggage/belongings
  • Lack identification, passport or other travel documents
  • Are forced to provide sexual services in a strip club, massage parlour, brothel or other locations
  • May appear to be malnourished

A trafficked person may be reluctant to seek help because they:

  • Are threatened that if they tell anyone, they or their families will be hurt
  • May have complex relationships with their traffickers that involve deep levels of psychological conditioning based on fear or misplaced feelings of love
  • Do not see themselves as a trafficked person or victim
  • May be unfamiliar with their surrounding and do not know who to trust
  • Do not know help exists or where to go for it
  • Fear law enforcement and other authorities
  • Are embarrassed or humiliated
  • May be addicted to drugs
  • May be in debt to their traffickers
  • May be sending much needed money back 'home' and worry about not being able to do this
  • Fear being deported if they are from another country
  • May have limited English skills