Safety Guide

Observe with these tips:

  • Do not overreact.
  • Find a safe location.
  • Look for physical, emotional, and behavioral signs of trafficking
  • Make note of physical descriptors like clothing, gender, height, hair color, and age
  • Make note of location, license plate number, vehicle type, and direction of travel

Look for multiple signs and rely on your gut feelings to best assess the situation. How you decide to respond will be situation-dependent, and safety should be your top priority.

Speak up:

In cases of human trafficking, speaking directly to a suspected victim can help you understand the situation. Always make sure you are in a safe environment before starting a conversation. Never engage a suspected trafficker.

Speak up with these tips:

Begin by asking friendly, casual questions and look for physical, behavioral, and emotional indicators of trafficking in their responses, such as whether or not there is eye contact, if they are allowed to speak, or if they look to someone else before responding.

Examples of small talk conversation starters:

  • I have to tell you I love your shirt! Where did you get it?
  • Those are such cool shoes. Where did you get them?
  • I'm new to this town. Do you know where I can get a good cup of coffee?
  • I'm starving. Do you know of a good place to eat around here?
  • Isn't it a beautiful day today? Do you have any fun plans?
  • Has anyone ever told you that you look just like (a famous person)?

In a customer service environment, professionals should try to make direct eye contact with the suspected victim and ask questions like:

  • Hi, how are you?
  • What brings you in today?
  • Did you watch the game last night? What did you think?
  • Are you hungry? What can I get for you?
  • You look so much like my daughter. She's about your age. What grade are you in?
  • What are you in town for?

If the suspected victim is alone and the situation permits, ask more direct questions. Always be kind and respectful, do not overreact, and help the person feel accepted and appreciated no matter what their response is. Consider these examples:

  • What type of work do you do? Are you being paid?
  • Has someone you work for ever threatened you or another person with physical harm?
  • Has someone you work for or with, ever hit, kicked, punched, slapped, grabbed or pushed you?
  • Has someone you work for or live with ever received the money you worked to earn instead of you?
  • Have you ever been asked or forced to perform a sexual act?
  • Has someone ever received money, or something else of monetary value like drugs, because you performed a sexual act?
  • Are you free to leave your job? Can you come and go as you please?
  • Are you being watched of followed?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • What are your working and living conditions like?
  • Where do you sleep and eat? Do you have to ask permission to do so?
  • Are there locks on your doors/windows so you can't get out?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?
  • Have your injuries been caused by another person?
  • Do you go to school? Why aren't you in school?
  • Has your employer threatened you if you try to leave?
  • Do you want help leaving?
  • Why don't you want to go home?
  • Were you lied to about the kind of work you'd be doing?
  • Have you ever exchanged sex for food, shelter, drugs, or money?
  • Has anyone offered you money in exchange for sex?

If you work directly with minors and suspect trafficking, or are concerned about a minor you know, you can ask more informed questions like:

  • I've noticed that you avoid going home. Is there something going on at home?
  • I've noticed that you have been self-harming. I'm here for you if you'd like to talk about it.
  • Have you ever tried to break up with your boyfriend and he wouldn't let you?
  • I've noticed that you have been getting new and expensive things lately. Where are you getting them from?
  • I notice you have been really tired and not like yourself lately. Is there something going on?
  • I notice you have been exploring sexuality. Where are you learning about it? There is a lot of information out there that is not healthy. Do you have any questions I can answer?
  • I've noticed you've been using slang phrases lately. Where did you learn those words?
  • Has someone requested or made you take inappropriate pictures of yourself?
  • Is someone making you keep a secret? Who else knows the secret? What will happen if you tell? Are they threatening to hurt someone you love if you tell?


In cases of human trafficking, it is always crucial to report what you have witnessed and delegate further intervention to a professional. Know that the more agencies you inform, the more likely a victim will be offered services.

Report with these tips:

  • 911 in urgent situations
  • The national human trafficking hotline 1-888-373-7888
  • Have you ever tried to break up with your boyfriend and he wouldn't let you?
  • Child protective services (varies by state)
  • National center for missing and exploited children 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)

Each state has its own laws requiring citizens to report child abuse, or a person's intent to hurt oneself or another. Be sure to learn your state law for mandatory reporting of any form of child maltreatment including trafficking. If you are a mandated reporter, any reasonable concern for possible child trafficking must be reported to either local law enforcement or Child Protective Services.