How To Spot Human Trafficking While Traveling

Did you know you can combat human trafficking just by people-watching while traveling? Here are some basic tips for how to spot human trafficking while just chillin’ on the airplane, drinking your $7 cup of mediocre wine.

The following list will describe human-trafficking, but understand this can happen to adults also.

How To Spot Human Trafficking As A Traveler On An Airplane

  1. The child is accompanied by a person who appears to be a dominant figure, is usually of a different ethnicity, not dressed in the same types of clothing, and has a large age difference.
  2. The child appears withdrawn and the child and adult do not engage in much dialogue.
  3. The child is inappropriately dressed for the weather and has little to no personal belongings.
  4. The adult pays for everything and answers for the child.
  5. The child appears disheveled, nervous, scared, and feels uncomfortable speaking or answering questions.
  6. A minor is with her “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” who appears controlling and shows signs of physical and verbal abuse.

How To Spot Human Trafficking As A Traveler In A Hotel

  1. The same as above AND…
  2. The child does not have any form of identification.
  3. The child checks in at midnight on a school night and avoids eye contact.
  4. The adult pays for the hotel in cash.
  5. There are different people entering the hotel room or waiting outside of the hotel room.

The hotel is usually the last time a child is seen and the last chance before he/she can be recovered.

Most Common Places To Spot Human Trafficking While Traveling

  1. California, Florida, and Texas are main hubs for human trafficking in 2017.
  2. Human trafficking picks up around large events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics.

Actions Travelers Can Take To Prevent Human Trafficking

Once you know what to look for, spotting it isn’t the hard part. Honestly once you see it, you will probably feel very uncomfortable with the situation automatically. However, knowing what to do once you spot it is the stressful part. Here is a list of what you can do:

  1. Always remember to NEVER ATTEMPT TO RESCUE THE CHILD. This puts the child in direct danger.
  2. Record the flight number, airport of departure and landing of your flight.
  3. Record the seat number of the potential human trafficker and child.
  4. If possible, take a photo without drawing attention to yourself. If you can’t do this discretely DO NOT DO IT AT ALL. Instead record tattoos, distinct physical features, and birthmarks.
  5. Report your suspicions IMMEDIATELY to a flight attendant, gate attendant, or the front desk lobby. They are usually trained to deal with this and will call the proper authorities.
  6. Call the National Sex Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 and report the same thing
  7. THEN LET IT GO. That’s all you can do. Now let it go.
  8. To be proactive without spotting human trafficking, upload a picture of your hotel room to Traffick Cam, where these photos will be used to determine where perpetrators of sex trafficking are committing their crimes

Human Trafficking While Traveling

Human trafficking is a global problem, but The Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report for 2012 states that the United States is a top “source, transit and destination country for men, women and children–both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals–subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, involuntary servitude and sex trafficking.” Please understand this post is specific to The United States and does not apply for any other country. In addition, while these tips were from an expert, the editor of this website is not an expert and therefore cannot answer any questions related to this topic.

For more information, check out the largest resource on human trafficking in the USA here.

If you are an expert in human trafficking and have more tips, please 1) identify yourself and your credentials 2) drop your tips in the comments below.

You are appreciated and your work is important.


About The Author

Kiona is not an expert in human trafficking. This information was gathered during an interview with a State of Texas policy advisor on child trafficking.

9 thoughts on “How To Spot Human Trafficking While Traveling

  1. This is very relevant information and good to note that the USA is a major center of child sex trafficking. We often think this horrible phenomenon is limited to developing countries in other parts of the world. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Eyy this is a great post! Oregon is also a HUUUGEE human trafficker. And I mean, ANYWHERE along I-5 really, Los Angeles, SF, Portland, Seattle, its like the highway for trafficking. Portland even has underground tunnels and everything from when people used to get drugged and pushed into the bar’s basement before getting kidnapped and shipped across the pacific ocean haha. I don’t think those tunnels are still in use, but literally there are dozens of missing children every WEEK. Most of them are young minority women, but boys too. Even just driving down the highway, most rest stops have the “how to spot trafficking” flyers in the women’s restroom (idk about the mens) and a hotline to call if you are in trouble or see someone that might need help. One rest stop even had an emergency phone in the restroom, but I don’t remember where it is….but yah. Oh and I also use traffick cam – since I have a tendency to stay in shady motels along the highway.

  3. Thank you for sharing this super relevant info. I would also add that even in within the US, human trafficking exists in places where you don’t expect it. For example, many would not expect human trafficking to occur in south-central Pennsylvania (the area where I went to college), but lots of human trafficking apparently happens there.

  4. Thank you so much for this information and all you’re other informative posts and collaborations. I’m learning a lot and sure don’t want to be traveling like a disrespectful, basic bitch.

  5. I super love that you’re writing about this. Thank you for using your platform to talk about real and important issues related to travel. Often when law enforcement cracks down on human trafficking is results in increased policing and danger for sex workers. Earlier this year, the FOSTA bill was passed and it is putting sex workers in serious danger.

    People who care about human rights and human trafficking should also be aware of this. Here’s an article with more about FOSTA.

    “One critic of the bill, author and sex workers’ rights activist Conner Habib, tweeted: “The most obvious reason FOSTA-SESTA is such an issue is that it cuts off many sex workers’ access to money by limiting their access to clients. It purports to ‘crack down on websites that promote sex trafficking.’ But in our country, all sex work is conflated with trafficking.”

  6. Operation Underground Railroad has a free basic training program for human trafficking. They are a wonderful resource and place to learn about anything related to it!

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