Look for Warning Signs of Human Trafficking


Human trafficking or child trafficking is modern-day slavery. Traffickers often groom or lure children into a life of forced sexual labor. It’s a dangerous and growing problem in Tennessee and every state in the United States. Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.

Studies indicate 46 children in the U.S. become trapped in the trafficking world every day. The average age of new victims is 13.

It’s important for all citizens to be on the lookout for victims. If you think a child may be caught in human trafficking, call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-55-TNHTH.

Warning Signs

If you look closely, you may notice something that could save a life. Here are some warning signs of human trafficking from ithastostop.com:

Physical Appearance

  • Has injuries or other signs of abuse and doesn’t want to explain them.
  • Looks thin and in need of food.
  • Marked with a tattoo, such as a man’s name, symbol of money or a barcode.
  • Dressed in a suggestive way or in a way not normal for their age group. They may be dressed in the same clothes, no matter what the weather or situation is.


  • Has very few personal possessions.
  • Has a sudden increase in money, clothing, or things like jewelry. Has no explanation on how they got these things.
  • Doesn’t carry identification.
  • Has a number of hotel keys or key cards.
  • Has a prepaid cell phone.

Lack of Control

  • Is with someone who seems to control their every move.
  • Seems to follow a script in the way they speak.
  • Doesn’t have control over their own money.
  • Can’t come and go from place to place on their own.


  • Fears authority figures.
  • Claims to be an adult, though they look like an adolescent.
  • Seems to move often from place to place.
  • Talks about an older boyfriend or sex with an older man.
  • Information in their story doesn’t add up.
  • Claims to be visiting. Can’t state what city they’re in or for how long.
  • Isn’t able to speak for herself or himself.
  • Is not enrolled in school or is often absent.
  • Seems to be depressed or “checked out.”

If you see warning signs and think a child may be a victim of human trafficking, call the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-55-TNHTH. Or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

Beware of Technology

The methods used for trafficking have changed because of technology. Traffickers no longer have to pursue children on the streets. The internet has become the key tool for finding new victims. These predators know that children use nearly all social media networks and that parents may not be aware of their activities.

Traffickers lie to deceive and control young people. They may pose as friends, peers and attractive members of the opposite sex. They lure children into unsafe situations where they can be taken and sold into the sex trafficking industry. Get more information.

Safety Tips for Parents

Here are some suggestions for parents from Erase Child Trafficking.

Talk to your children openly and honestly. Take the time to talk to your child about sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Help them understand why avoiding certain situations is critical to their safety. Get tips for talking to kids.

Practice social media safety. Child traffickers thrive on social media. They build trust with victims before inviting them to a location where they can be drawn into human trafficking. Consider limiting your children’s social media use. Help them learn good social media practices for remaining safe. Learn how to help children cope with social media peer pressure.

Make your home a happy, inviting place. Many trafficking victims are not kidnapped but are lured into trafficking situations by false promises. Children might think these strangers can fill emotional needs they feel are not being met at home. Watch this video for fun ways to strengthen family bonds.

Be aware of men and women. Traffickers aren’t just men. The first contact a child makes with trafficking is often a female. These female recruiters present themselves as friendly and exciting. They often promise to provide young people with experiences their “normal” lives cannot.

Identify your child. Organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provide identification services where parents can upload images, some details and even fingerprints to a secure database.

Get more information on safety tips.

Additional Resources

Think someone is a victim of human trafficking? Contact the Tennessee Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-55-TNHTH.

If you know of or think someone is involved in human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline for confidential help and information at 888-373-7888.

Get more information on human trafficking and how to stop it.

Keep children on the path to excellent mental health.

Learn about the importance of building resilience in children and teens.