Frequently Asked Questions

Get the facts and learn how to recognize the signs of human trafficking.


What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Force, fraud, and coercion are defined as:

  • Force: Physical and/or sexual assault, physical confinement, starvation, torture, and abuse.
  • Fraud: False and deceptive offers of “a better life”—for example, employment, love, education, financial stability.
  • Coercion: Threats of serious harm to the victim or person victim is close to (immediate family, children). These can include physical threats, arrest/prosecution, and/or psychological manipulation.

Are there different types of human trafficking?

Human trafficking falls into three categories:

  • Sex trafficking: The use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts (sex for money) against their will. Nearly 80% of all trafficking is for sex.
  • Forced labor: Occurs when people are forced to work by another person through the use of violence, intimidation, or accumulated debt. A trafficker may also take the victim’s identity papers or legal documentation and threaten to report the victim to immigration authorities.
  • Domestic servitude: Victims of domestic servitude may appear to be nannies, maids, or home health workers, but if their employment arrangement means they cannot leave on their own free will, it becomes a case of trafficking.

Isn’t sex trafficking and prostitution the same thing?

No. The difference is free will. Victims of sex trafficking are being forced against their will or tricked by another person to perform sex for money. Prostitutes and sex workers may voluntarily perform sex acts for money. They are not coerced or tricked into staying in the business but have chosen this from among the options available to them.

Does human trafficking involve physically moving people from place to place?

Human trafficking is often confused with human smuggling, which is the illegal movement of people across borders. Human trafficking does not necessarily involve the movement of people.

How big of a problem is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It’s estimated that human trafficking generates $32 billion in profits internationally each year.

Where does human trafficking happen?

  • Human trafficking is happening all over the world—worldwide, it’s estimated that 10-30 million people live in slavery every day.
  • In the US, 15,000-17,000 victims are trafficked into the country each year, and more than 4,500 are trafficked within our country’s borders.
  • It’s important to know that these numbers are underestimated, because thousands of human trafficking cases go unreported.

Is human trafficking happening in my community?

  • Yes. Prince George’s County is not immune to human trafficking. In 2016, there were 241 calls to Child Protective Services about human trafficking of minors, and County police arrested 33 adults for human trafficking offenses. Sex trafficking is the most common type of trafficking in the County.
  • Maryland and Prince George’s County are human trafficking hot spots because of proximity to DC and Virginia and access to major transportation routes (I95 and Route 1). There are also many truck stops and rest stops in the area, where trafficking frequently occurs, as well as bus depots, train stations, and airports where victims are trafficked. The area also offers many conventions, events, and tourist attractions, which increase the demand for trafficking victims.

Who are the victims of human trafficking?

  • Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking, regardless of nationality, age, sex, gender orientation, or socioeconomic status.
  • The common trait among many human trafficking victims is vulnerability. Traffickers seek out people who are vulnerable in some way as potential victims. Populations that are particularly at risk include LGBTQ, immigrants and non-English speakers, people living in poverty, people with substance abuse issues (and their children), children with little parental involvement and in homes where sexual abuse occurs, foster children, people with disabilities, runaways, and victims of violence or abuse.
  • Of all the risk factors, age is the greatest vulnerability. Inexperience and naivety make kids a target for labor and sex trafficking. It’s important to know that any person under the age of 18 who is involved in a commercial sex act (sex for money) is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of consent.

Where do human trafficking crimes take place?

Trafficking may be happening around you but you don’t realize it or recognize it. In this way, human trafficking is a crime that is “hidden in plain sight.” For example, sex trafficking may occur in hotels, motels, residential brothels, private homes, truck stops, massage parlors, and even on the street. Labor trafficking happens in hotels, motels, restaurants, casinos, hair and nail salons, private homes, construction sites, and factories.

How do traffickers recruit victims?

  • In nearly 50% of all cases, victims are recruited by someone they know. It might be a friend, family member, teacher, coach, boyfriend or girlfriend, or employer.
  • Traffickers recruit victims anywhere and everywhere—in malls, in transit hubs, in homeless shelters, even at schools. They especially rely on the internet and social media to lure victims.
  • Traffickers promise their victims a better life by tempting or misleading them with false promises of a job, financial security, love and affection, a place to live, better social status, or protection of some kind.

Why don’t victims leave their traffickers?

  • Traffickers control their victims and keep them from escaping. They may do this through physical abuse, threats to the victims or their families, debt bondage, confinement, confiscating legal or identity documents, and/or psychologically manipulating them into thinking that they can’t leave.
  • Victims may not understand what trafficking is or know that it’s illegal.
  • Traffickers may have convinced their victims that they can’t make it on their own, or that people who could help them—such as law enforcement—should be feared.
  • Victims also may develop strong emotional and psychological bonds to their traffickers as a result of physical and emotional abuse.

What should I do if I suspect a trafficking situation?

  • Learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking.
  • Be empathetic to victims. Show compassion, as they are victims of a serious crime.
  • If you are in the United States and believe you or someone else may be a victim of human trafficking, report your suspicions to law enforcement by calling 911 or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733. If you are in Prince George's County, please call 311.
  • If you suspect a human trafficking situation, do not personally intervene. Contact law enforcement or the NHTH.

How can I help end human trafficking?

There are many ways to get involved in the fight to end human trafficking, including volunteering at organizations that help survivors, helping to educate others in your community, school, or workplace about human trafficking, and working with legislators to strengthen anti-human trafficking laws.