Human Trafficking Prevention: Help Us Identify Potential Victims
Members of the organized criminal enterprise responsible for these workers’ misery were ultimately identified and charged in a conspiracy to operate a human trafficking scheme. But, as we observe National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we’re reminded that there are still thousands of victims in the U.S.—and millions worldwide—being forced into both legal and illegal activities.
Human trafficking generates billions of dollars of profit each year, making it one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities. The FBI investigates it as a priority under our civil rights program, but we see human trafficking activities in other investigative areas as well, including organized crime, crimes against children, and gangs.
To address the threat, we work cases with our local, state, federal, and international partners and participate in approximately 70 multi-agency human trafficking task forces. We also offer our counterparts—as well as non-governmental organizations, including non-profits—human trafficking awareness training. And to help get a better handle on human trafficking within the U.S., the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program plans to start collecting human trafficking data from law enforcement in 2013.
Many of our human trafficking cases are based on information from our partners and from criminal sources, but we also can and do receive tips from the public.
That’s where you come in. Please keep your eyes out for the following indicators that suggest the possibility of human trafficking:
- Individuals who have no contact with friends or family and no access to identification documents, bank accounts, or cash;
- Workplaces where psychological manipulation and control are used;
- Homes or apartments with inhumane living conditions;
- People whose communications and movements are always monitored or who have moved or rotated through multiple locations in a short amount of time;
- Places where locks and fences are positioned to confine occupants; and
- Workers who have excessively long and unusual hours, are unpaid or paid very little, are unable take breaks or days off and have unusual work restrictions, and/or have unexplained work injuries or signs of untreated illness or disease.
Bear in mind: human trafficking victims can be found in many job locations and industries—including factories, restaurants, elder care facilities, hotels, housekeeping, child-rearing, agriculture, construction and landscaping, food processing, meat-packing, cleaning services…as well as the commercial sex industry.
Human Trafficking Myths
Be aware of these enduring myths about human trafficking:
Myth: Trafficking must involve the crossing of borders.
Fact: Despite the use of the word “trafficking,” victims can actually be held within their own country—anti-trafficking laws don’t require that victims must have traveled from somewhere else.
Myth: U.S. citizens can’t be trafficked.
Fact: They can and they are.
Myth: Victims know what they are getting into or have chances to escape.
Fact: They’re actually duped into it and may not even think of escaping because of threats against them or ignorance of the law.
Myth: Victims are never paid.
Fact: Sometimes they are paid, but not very much.
Myth: Victims never have freedom of movement.
Fact: Some victims can move about, but are coerced into always returning, perhaps with a threat against their families back home.
One last note: human trafficking is often confused with alien smuggling, which includes those who consent to smuggling to get across a border illegally.
And here’s one more thing to consider: while the majority of human trafficking victims in our investigations are from other countries and may speak little or no English, approximately 33 percent of victims are Americans. They come from a variety of groups that are vulnerable to coercive tactics—like minors, certain immigrant populations, the homeless, substance abusers, the mentally challenged and/or minimally educated, and those who come from cultures that historically distrust law enforcement or who have little or no experience with the legal system.
If you suspect human trafficking activities, do us and the victims a big favor: call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 or contact the FBI through our Tips webpage.