Human Trafficking: What It Is and How to Spot It

Victim of human trafficking

For weeks we’ve waited for updates on the Ghislaine Maxwell trial regarding her involvement in one of the most notorious sex trafficking cases in the United States. Jeffrey Epstein brought to light an issue that has lived within the shadows for far too long. However, sex trafficking is not always performed by high-profile individuals on private islands – it is a heinous act performed by everyday people, impacting the lives of people like your loved ones everyday.

What is human trafficking?

The United States Department of Justice defines human trafficking as a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. However, this horrible crime is not just one that affects individuals in the United States.

In 2017, the International Labor Organization estimated that there were 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally. The company Polaris, which runs the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, identified 11,500 situations of human trafficking with 22,326 victims and survivors in the U.S. alone during 2019. Unfortunately, many experts estimate that these numbers are actually much higher due to the hidden nature of the crime.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In order to bring awareness to this crime, many people have taken to social media to spread information about the signs of trafficking. Some even share their own personal experiences. We’ve compiled a number of them below for you to check out and share with your loved ones. Our hope is that by knowing what to look out for, you can practice situational awareness and avoid becoming a victim.

Potential signs of human trafficking

Below are examples of potential signs of human trafficking that have gone viral on social media. While some of these may seem uncommon, it is important to always be aware.

Car tampering

Causing issues with cars seems to be one of the most commonly discussed human trafficking lures online. In the most basic form, the trafficker does something to the intended victim’s car, whether that is causing minor damage or placing an object on the windshield. This anomaly distracts the individual who drives the car, putting them in a more vulnerable position for a sudden attack.

According to this video, traffickers in Anaheim, CA are tagging cars with a distinguishing mark like a small hole in the trunk to identify potential victims.
People have also found Apple AirTags on their cars that were placed by traffickers to track potential victims.

If you suspect that your car has been tampered with or find suspicious items on the outside of your car, try to get to a crowded public place or a police station before dealing with it if possible. This will allow you some cover while you address the issue.

Receiving strange texts or phone alerts

Another reported issue that has circled on social media is the receiving of strange messages on a phone. This could be odd bluetooth alerts when you don’t have any known connected devices or texts from unknown number trying to seek out personal information.

The user in this video describes getting texts from someone asking to meet up. When she responded that she didn’t know the person they continued to try to engage her and lure her to a meeting.

It may be a bit harder to address suspicious technological activity than car tampering, but there are still steps you can take to remain safe. If someone you don’t know is texting and asking to meet, do not engage them, and block the number if you need to. If you are receiving notifications about an unknown device connecting to your bluetooth (such as an AirTag), search your belongings to try to find the device and contact the police.

Vague job advertisements

You may have seen job flyers up on telephone poles around your town advertising vague but high paying jobs for teen employees. These tear off phone number forms could actually be a warning sign of trafficking as well.

If you see similar flyers with minimal information about a job, be wary. Encourage teens you know to be aware and not meet up with any unknown employers in a private setting.

Code phrases

People have also described being approached in a public area like a mall or a park by an unknown individual trying to start a conversation. They may be asking questions or attempting to get someone to come talk with them in a more secluded area.



♬ original sound – Sahar
In this case, the Tik Tok user was approached by an individual who wanted to talk to her about “God the Mother.” The individual repeatedly tried to get her to leave a public setting for a conversation.

Like the other warning signs on this list, use good judgement. If something seems off about a stranger who has approached you, don’t go anywhere alone with them. If you have children, remind them of this tip as well.

Final thoughts

One of the key elements of safety and defensive living is situational awareness. While that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to constantly be anxious or hypervigilant, you should have at least some level of awareness with your surroundings. This is especially true when you are in a location that is unfamiliar to you.

For more information on living defensively and protecting what matters most in your life, check out our concealed carry training classes. You can find the class nearest to you here.

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