Signs that a Person Might be Trafficked

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime developed a comprehensive list of trafficking indicators to help the public recognize the signs a person may have been trafficked.

See our online course, Human Trafficking: Canada is Not Immune for a full list of indicators, including specific signs that might indicate sex trafficking; labor trafficking; domestic servitude; or child trafficking.

In general, a person may be trafficked if they show the following indicators of exploitation and control:

  • Show signs of fear, anxiety, depression, hyper-vigilance or intimidation Do not have control over their wages or money
  • 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
  • Show signs of branding or scarring that indicates ownership by the trafficker
  • Are accompanied everywhere by someone who speaks for them
  •  Show signs of poor health, poor hygiene or malnutrition
  • Not know their address and are unfamiliar with their surroundings or the neighbourhood where they live or work
  • Wear inappropriate clothing for the weather or situation, or are travelling with minimal or inappropriate luggage/belongings
  • Have no access to personal identification documents, or have fake ones

A trafficked person often does not self-identify or 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 language skills