What are the signs of human trafficking?

Local News

It’s the modern day version of slavery, and it’s happening right here in Iowa. Two major interstates run across the state, making travel in and out fast and easy for traffickers to transport their victims.

Many of these victims are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of enslavement. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, most are forced into sex trafficking.

Human trafficking can happen at anytime, to anyone, anywhere. Local 5 found out the signs of human trafficking for you to know.

Restrictions on work and living conditions

The National Human Trafficking Hotline says that a victim could have heavy restrictions on their day-to-day life. They may not be able to leave their home or job on their own. Their work day may be excessively long or have unusual hours with no breaks. They can be unpaid, paid very little, or only receive tips. A victim may have no control of what they do in their life.

Poor physical and mental health

A victim of trafficking may be malnourished, have poor hygiene, and be fatigued. They could have untreated illnesses or wounds. They may also have signs of physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement or torture.

A victim may have recently started a new relationship with a partner that is significantly older or domineering. This partner may have complete control over the victim, which can cause fear, anxiety and depression. Their anxiety may escalate when talking about law enforcement or immigration officials. They could also be submissive and avoid eye contact.

Substance abuse or addiction may also be a sign that someone is a victim of human trafficking.


Possessions could be minimal, or they could be extravagant. The Iowa Victim Service Call Center says that a victim may not be allowed to handle money directly. On the other hand, younger victims that couldn’t afford it before may now have expensive clothes or accessories. Younger victims may also carry more than one cell phone.


Some victims may be branded by traffickers. It can be a nick-name of the trafficker or something as blatant as a dollar sign or a barcode.

How you can help

There are various hotlines to call if you believe someone may be a victim or is involved with human trafficking. Remember, if you see something, say something.

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