Signs of Human trafficking: What to watch out for

Local News

(WFRV) – January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month and local officials want to be assured that Wisconsinites are safe and aware of the signs associated with a human trafficking operation.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), human trafficking can include sex trafficking or labor trafficking and can happen to both men and women of all ages.

What’s more, Appleton Police Chief, Todd Thomas, added that human trafficking operations tend to target vulnerable people, including runaways, individuals with family issues, or those struggling with substance abuse.

In an attempt to prevent Wisconsinites from falling victim to these heinous operations, the DOJ shared possible indicators people can keep an eye out for.

Possible indicators of sex trafficking and recruitment are as follow:

  • Any minor engaged in sex acts for anything of value
  • An individual of any age or gender appears to be watching and approaching youth and systematically trying to befriend strangers, promoting ‘modeling agencies’, traveling crew employment, talent search websites or other employment
  • Crimes (theft, drug crimes) appear to be committed under the watch and for the benefit of someone else
  • Tattoos that indicate branding of a victim by a trafficker
  • Youth in possession of motel keys/cards, lots of cash, prepaid credit cards
  • Individuals being constantly monitored, having no control over money or ID, with few or no personal items
  • Minors under the influence of drugs/alcohol in the company of adults or much older youth
  • Signs of physical abuse, fear, or malnourishment
  • Lack of knowledge of his or her whereabouts or destination, numerous inconsistencies in his or story

Possible indicators of Labor Trafficking, provided by the DOJ, include:

  • Individuals selling items or begging
  • Signs of physical abuse, force, restraint, sleep deprivation, untreated injuries or illness
  • Groups of traveling sales or work crews sleeping in vehicles in parking lot
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts or destination, numerous inconsistencies in their story
  • Individuals being constantly monitored by someone, not allowed to speak for themselves, seem fearful or submissive to a person who is speaking for themIndividuals without their own transportation, who do not seem to be allowed to come and go on their ownIndividuals who do not carry their own identification or money, or have few or no personal possessions
  • Mention of work conditions or wages being different than what was advertised or promised

Officials added that if an individual comes across a situation that they believe to be human trafficking, they are asked not to intervene, but instead document as much information as they can, and contact law enforcement.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911. The National HumanTrafficking Hotline also assists victims and accepts tips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-888-373-7888. For help finding a local service provider, reach out to the DOJ Office of Crime Victim Services or visit the service directories on DOJ’s human trafficking website at

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