Human trafficking is a crime exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. There is no single profile of a trafficking victim. Victims of human trafficking can be anyone – regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status. Human trafficking can occur through psychological coercion or threats of non-physical harm, even without any physical violence or threats of physical harm or restraint. There are some warning signs that may indicate human trafficking. Traffickers, and the people who help them, may:

  • use threats and other intimidating acts to make you or others feel too afraid to try to leave;
  • demand that you perform labor, services, or commercial sex acts (prostitution) to repay a debt;
  • use rules and controls to make it harder for you or others to leave, complain, or seek help; or
  • make false promises about type of work, working hours, working or living conditions, or pay.

Victims of human trafficking are entitled to protections and services and may be eligible for some public benefits. You have the right to request help and to leave an abusive employment situation.

If you’re being abused, the most important thing is for you to seek safety. You don’t have to stay in your job if your employer is abusing you. If you aren’t a U.S. citizen and you’re working in the U.S. on a valid visa, your visa status may no longer be valid if you leave your employer, but you may be able to change your visa status or employer. Even if your visa status is not valid, help is available.

You may make a formal complaint or file a lawsuit against your employer while you’re working or after you leave your employer. If your employer takes action (or retaliates) against you for doing so, they’re violating the law.

Questions? We’re here to help.

If you or someone you know is being mistreated, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Trained specialists are always available to help in more than 200 languages. You don’t have to give your name or identify yourself. The Hotline is operated by a non-governmental organization.

If you’re in immediate danger, call the police at 911 (within the U.S.). Tell them the emergency, your location, and the phone number from which you are calling. Ask for an interpreter if you don’t speak English.

Learn about filing a complaint

If you believe you have information about a potential trafficking situation, you can submit a tip through the National Human Trafficking Hotline’s anonymous online reporting form. The information you provide will be reviewed by the National Hotline and forwarded to specialized law enforcement and/or service providers where appropriate.

Report human trafficking