Before Travel

How to Identify Child Trafficking While Traveling and What To Do

Did you know that it is estimated that there are nearly 20 million victims of sex slavery?  That number is astounding and many of the victims are children, under the age of 18 who cannot help themselves.  O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad), founded in 2013, is an organization dedicated to ending modern-day slavery, seeing that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and rehabilitating the rescued child.  The scope of their mission reaches international locations as well as domestic.

We have read about, studied, and met with O.U.R. in their efforts and have decided that we want to put our hands in theirs and use our platforms and resources to help further the fight against child trafficking.  As part of Giving Tuesday we have teamed up with a group of bloggers spearheaded by our friends at Oh Sweet Basil and we would like to encourage you, our readers, to engage as well in this important mission. So today we are discussing how to identify child trafficking while traveling and what to do because human trafficking happens everywhere.

travel ethically and smart for childrean

How to Identify Child Trafficking While Traveling and What To Do

Human trafficking can occur anywhere across all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. For that reason, it is important to understand the warning signs and know how to respond when we may encounter something suspicious.


Firstly, look for physical evidence of violence such as beatings, starvation, broken bones, burn marks, bruising, cuts or signs of restraint or torture.  Often times these physical evidences have been covered up with makeup.


Traffickers often “brand” or “mark” their victims. Be aware of tattoos.  If you see more two or more individuals with the same distinct tattoo in the same location on their bodies, they may be victims of human trafficking.  Look for anything that looks out of place like a homeless youth with new clothes or electronics. Look also for malnutrition, signs of neglect such as unkempt hair or body odor, a person with poor hygiene accompanied by someone well groomed and older.  Another red flag is children dressed inappropriately for their age such as a young girl with too much makeup or wearing promiscuous clothing.


Victims may live in overcrowded or unsanitary conditions with frequent male visitors coming to and from a particular home, apartment, or hotel room.  Traffickers or victims may also carry large amounts of cash, false identification, multiple cell phones, hotel keys of receipts or slips of paper with dollar amounts and contact information.  


Often victims may not identify as a victim of human trafficking or disclose abuse even when asked about it so it is very important to know the signs.  Watch for emotional distress, fear, depression, helplessness, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks.


Some of the easiest emotional indicators are downcast eyes, poor posture, lack of facial expression, avoiding eye contact and being easily startled.  Victims may also look to others before answering a question directed at them and allow others to answer for them.

Sadly, victims often have an unfounded fear and paranoia about law enforcement, social workers, medical personnel and other professionals.  


Be wary of anyone bragging about having an older boyfriend, getting a modeling job, or youth using inappropriate words or slang expressions.  Victims often appear disoriented or confused and sometimes talk about travel but lack knowledge of specific travel plans or current location.


Again, victims are often accompanied by a dominating and controlling individual who appears older and victims may use rehearsed lines in conversations.  They may also show signs of gang affiliation, drug addiction, or petty theft.

When and How to Offer Help if You Suspect Human Trafficking While Traveling

Use the O.U.R. acronym:

O is for OBSERVE-

If you encounter a strange situation, take the time to observe assess and listen into conversations.  Look for signs that indicate trafficking or abuse. Don’t overreact, but mentally make a list of descriptive information that can be given to law enforcement.

U is for SPEAK UP-

If you are in a setting that permits, talk directly to the victim and start a conversation.  Ask personal questions like what they do, what their name is, where they go to school and where they are from.  Engaging in small talk will help you assess the situation and look for more signs. Mentally note if they don’t make eye contact, act nervous, or if they look to someone else before answering or if they don’t answer at all.  


Don’t engage a suspected trafficker- engaging a trafficker can put you or the victim in serious danger.  Back off, go to a safe spot and call the authorities. Never attempt to rescue a victim yourself, make verbal accusations, or give personal information.

R is for REPORT-

Report what you see and delegate intervention to professionals.  If you ever encounter a minor engaging in commercial sex, call the authorities immediately.  It may be wise to walk away and call the police so as to not alarm them. It is never too late to report a tip.  Most importantly, trust your intuition.


In the US there is a hotline number. Take a moment to program it into your phone so it will be readily available if you ever need it.  The number is 1 (888) 373-7888. If you are not certain of human trafficking but only suspect, it is always better to be safe than to say nothing.

Trafficking Prevention, and Protecting Yourself and Family While Traveling

Learn to protect yourself and your loved ones.  Know that traffickers do not fit a certain mold.  When traveling, trust your intuition.

  • If someone approaches you, tries to give directions, or otherwise makes you feel uncomfortable, you do not need to be nice.
  • Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into going to a certain place with them.
  • Never give out personal information about where you are from, how long you will be in that destination, where you are traveling next or where you are staying.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, make a scene, get out of there, and call the authorities if needed.

Help us Make a Change Today!

Human trafficking is a serious problem all over the world.  As much as we would like to think that where we live or where we travel is exempt… that is not the case.  It’s a tough thing to talk about but very necessary. With more open dialogue, we can be  aware and can make a change. We hope these tips have helped you learn how to identify child trafficking while traveling and what to do. We can do so much by just being aware.

keep you and your family safe while travelingOur Family Passport throws our support and resources behind this cause. The information contained in this post came from the O.U.R. website; specifically the training course, it is fabulous and of course free. You can sign up to take it yourself here. For more detailed training information or if you would like to donate to help this cause please visit


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