Spot the Signs: Trafficking

Spot the Signs: Trafficking

Here are some of the signs that could help you spot a potential victim of trafficking.

If you do suspect someone is a potential victim, please call the 24 Referral Helpline hosted by the Salvation Army on 0300 3038151 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. If someone is in immediate danger please call 999. You can also submit a report to the Modern Slavery Helpline here

General Indicators

Individuals may:

  • Be fearful of police/authorities

  • Be fearful of the trafficker or those they are working for

  • Exhibit signs of psychological trauma e.g. anxiety, lack of memory,

  • Be unaware they have been trafficked and believe they are simply in a bad job

  • Have limited freedom of movement and are unable to leave their place of work

  • Have no identity documents in their personal possession, and little or no finances of their own

  • Have limited access to medical care

  • Seem to be in debt to someone

  • Be regularly moved to avoid detection

Forced Labour

  • Workers may have noticeably poor personal hygiene

  • Is access to the backrooms of the property restricted or the doors locked? This may be used as accommodation for workers.

  • Is there a noticeable difference in cleanliness from the front of the property where the public go, and the back for staff areas?

  • Do the workers have adequate uniform? Are they without a hair net or steel toe shoes adequate for their role?

  • Do owners seem evasive? As if they are buying time so workers can leave?

  • Is there a lack of suitable equipment? E.g. lack of waterproofs at a car wash

  • Does the worker know the address of where they live? Do they live in private rented and often cramped accommodation?

  • Does someone seem to be overseeing low-skilled workers? An enforcer may often be overseeing work

  • Are workers picked up in vans/minibuses at unusual hours of day or night?

  • Is there evidence to suggest workers have to pay for tools, food or accommodation via deductions from their pay?

Child exploitation

  • Are there signs of physical neglect? Malnutrition, lack of clothing, lack of access to medical care?

  • Does the child have expensive clothes/mobile phone/money and other possessions without a plausible explanation?

  • Is the child cared for or accompanied by an adult who is not the child’s parent or guardian? Do they insist on being with the child at all times?

  • Do they show physical signs that they’ve been working? E.g. backache, tiredness

  • Is there an adult loitering outside the child’s home or place of education?

  • Does the child have a much older boyfriend?

  • Does the child seem to be withdrawn and afraid to talk to those in authority?

  • Is there evidence to suggest the child’s traveling or visas was organised by someone other than a family member?

  • Is the child among other unrelated children at an address? Does the child give answers similar to others who may have been coached?

Sexual Exploitation

  • Does the person selling sex only have an English vocabulary of sexualised words?

  • Are women/men being moved between brothels or to other work locations?

  • Are there CCTV cameras at the entrance to the property?

  • Do you see a bank of mobile phones with numbers written on the back of them?

  • Is the person selling sex closely guarded? Do they have any untreated injuries? E.g. cigarette burns, marks under arms or behind ears?

  • Do the individuals look like they are taking cues from someone?

  • Is there a distinct lack of home furnishings that you’d expect in a residential property?

  • Do the people selling sex also appear to be living in the property too? This is not usual for a brothel.

  • Are there signs that ritual witchcraft or abuse will have taken place?

  • If there are locks on the doors, are there scratches or marks from the inside where someone has been trying to open them?

  • Is there evidence that the individual has been forced/coerced/intimidated into providing sexual services?

Domestic Servitude

  • Does the person appear to be working in excess of normal hours/are they on-call 24hours a day?

  • Does the person leave the house without their employer present?

  • Has the person been subject to abuse/threats/violence?

  • Is the person in possession of their legal documents? Does their employer hold them?

  • Are the communications the person is allowed to have restricted by the employer?

  • Does the person eat alone? Are they given leftovers?

  • Does the person have makeshift or inappropriate sleeping arrangements?

  • Is the person allowed out the house? Is it just to take the children to school?

  • Does the person interact with the family?

  • If the person is a child, are there concerns around school attendance or time to play?

For more signs on spotting modern slavery please see Stop the Traffick's very informative site here.