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Education & Statistics
3 Places You Might See Trafficking, and What To Do About It
Education & Statistics

Three places that community members have spotted child trafficking situations include gas stations, hotels, and Facebook. Whether you have ever suspected a trafficking situation or not, it is important to be informed and prepared for what to do if you encounter it. There are many resources available to learn where trafficking happens, what the signs are and how to recognize them, how to report the tip, and how much information is necessary to report.

How to Identify Signs of a Trafficked Child

Although these are common places where trafficking occurs, the physical and behavioral signs and indicators can be recognized in other places as well. There are many resources that are great educators on the signs and indicators of a child being trafficked. We have listed some below.

Behavioral Signs (information found on missingkids.org)

  • Increased online activity
  • Child associates with new groups of online friends/older friends
  • Child avoids answering questions or lets others speak for him or her
  • Child appears frightened or resistant to law enforcement
  • Child lies about his or her age and identity
  • Child looks to others before answering questions
  • Child does not ask for help, does not self-identify as a victim
  • Child seems coached in talking to law enforcement

Physical Signs

  • Child has no identification (or ID is held by another person)
  • Child has large amounts of cash or pre-paid credit cards
  • Multiple children with unrelated adults
  • Child has sexual paraphernalia (such as bulk condoms or lubrication)
  • Evidence of travel (child is living out of suitcases, at motels, or in a car)
  • Child has a name or symbol tattooed or branded, child is reluctant to explain the tattoo, child’s tattoo matches other children’s tattoos
  • Child references traveling to other cities or states, may lack knowledge of their travel plans or current location
  • Child has hotel keys, hotel receipts or other items from hotel/motel
  • Presence of an overly controlling or abusive “boyfriend” or older female
  • Children recovered or picked up at hotels, truck stops, or strip clubs
  • Child has slips of paper with contact info and dollar amounts
  • Child has items or an appearance that does not fit his or her current situation (e.g., a homeless or runaway child who has money, electronics, new clothes or shoes, and who has his or her hair or nails done)
  • Child references online classified ads or escort websites
  • Child references traveling job opportunities (including modeling, singing and/or dancing in a music group or magazine sales crews)
  • Child has multiple cell phones and/or electronic devices
  • Child has unaddressed medical issues or who goes to the ER or clinic alone, or with an unrelated female

Other resources that discuss the signs of trafficking include but are not limited to:

What To Do 

There are many steps you can take to be prepared if you witness or suspect any of these situations. You can always use the resources available to you as a community member, victim, or family member. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline statistics, the number one type of callers on the hotline are community members. It is important that the community is aware of these potential situations and is willing to act when necessary. The following list explains steps you can take to be informed and prepared if you do see something suspicious:

  1. Put the National Human Trafficking Hotline number in your phone. 1-888-373-7888.
  2. If you suspect trafficking through something you saw on Facebook, they have a page dedicated to directing you to the correct resources and helping you handle the situation. Visit the page here.
  3. Text BeFree to 233733 to use the Polaris textline. This can be used to report trafficking tips and talk with someone one-on-one. The textline is open from 3-11pm EST.
  4. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in more than 200 languages. You can anonymously report a tip. 1-888-373-7888.
  5. Email the National Human Trafficking Hotline help@humantraffickinghotline.org.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is one of the best resources to report trafficking tips, ask for help, get involved, get more information, and access crisis assistance. In any case, you only have to share as much information as you are comfortable providing. You can always report anonymously, and you do not have to share any identifying details about yourself if you do not wish to. If you do choose to share, none of your personal information will ever be shared without explicit permission, unless required by law. Visit the hotline’s FAQ page here to learn more about the process.

All information is confidential, but the National Hotline will inform the authorities if there is child abuse or other danger involved that requires them to do so. Each tip is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Every member in the community is essential to keeping our kids safe. By being informed of the signs and indicators of trafficked and abused children, we can utilize the resources around us to continue fighting against modern-day slavery.

What can YOU Do?


The three phases of trafficking are recruitment, grooming, and seasoning. Learn more about how to protect our children from sex trafficking in this blog post. 

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