Indicators of Sex Trafficking for Service Providers

Human trafficking is often referred to as modern-day slavery. According to the definition used by Homeland Security “human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” [1]

Labor trafficking occurs most often when someone is forced or coerced into working for little to no money in a factory, domestic servitude or manual labor type industry. While sex trafficking is the trade of anything of value for a sex act through the use of force, fraud or coercion. When minors are induced into the commercial sex trade, force, fraud, or coercion no longer need to be proven; exploiting a child for sex is a federal crime due to the inability to legally give consent.

Both forms of trafficking may include movement across a border or jurisdiction of some kind, but it is not required.

Here at Guardian Group, we focus on domestic sex trafficking, which we as a community must realize is more than these basic definitions; it is America’s daughters, sisters, mothers, nieces and sometimes America’s sons.

Indicators of Sex Trafficking

As with all crimes, if we are able to recognize the indicators, we are better equipped to report what we see. Versus having a moment where we may think to ourselves, “something doesn’t seem right about that but I am not sure what.”

While observing a single “indicator” does not necessarily mean sex trafficking is occurring, seeing multiple indicators very likely does.

Tattoos – used as brands. They help traffickers’ de-conflict from each other. These tattoos may include crowns, roses, someone’s name, symbols of money or something that indicates the victim is a product.

A girl inappropriately dressed for her age or the weather conditions.

A young person being demeaned or controlled by another person.

Unable to tell you where they are or their past locations.

Drastic avoidance of eye contact, especially with males.

In possession of multiple computers, cell phones, unexplained cash, condoms and other sex items.

May appear fearful and nervous or even hostile.

Story or information may sound scripted or inconsistent.

Signs of physical abuse. Cuts, bruising or burns may be on the back of the neck or another place on the body that is easier to conceal.


Indicators of Sex Trafficking for Service Providers

As a service provider you are uniquely situated to recognize potential trafficking. As you enter people’s homes be aware of your surroundings. The following are indicators that are specific to your role as a service provider.


Mattresses located on the floor.

Too many people sharing a living space.

Unusual security, such as locks on the outside of interior doors.

Rooms with very little furniture.


Test your Knowledge

The Michigan State Police created a short video as part of an effort to help in-home technicians identify possible human trafficking situations. Watch it and see what indicators you can spot.

How to Respond to Potential Sex Trafficking

If you suspect trafficking and someone is in immediate danger call 911.

If you need to be connected to a resource for a human trafficking victim anywhere in the United States contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888


Help Stop Sex Trafficking

Once you have learned that this crime exists it is nearly impossible to forget that something this horrific is happening to young people across the nation. Partner with us today in PURSUIT of disrupting and preventing this crime. Learn more about ways to give.




[1] Department of Homeland Security. (2022, September 22). What is human trafficking? What Is Human Trafficking? | Homeland Security. Retrieved from link.