Red Flags of CSEC and Child Trafficking

General Indicators of Child Trafficking (sex and labor)

  • Leaves home frequently and/or for significant periods of time;
  • Has had multiple placements through child welfare;
  • Shows signs of mental, physical, or sexual abuse;
  • Uses street slang for sex work;
  • Has a significantly older partner/spends a lot of time with a controlling person or older adult;
  • Relies on another person to speak for them;
  • Indications or reports of domestic violence/intimate partner violence;
  • Lies about age or carries a fake form of identification;
  • Describes a stalking situation;
  • Lives in housing provided by employer;
  • Significantly reduces contact with family, friends, or other support networks;
  • Displays a pattern of staying in the homes of friends or a non-legally responsible adult;
  • Reluctant to discuss how they make money, where they live, or how or when they came to the U.S.;
  • Lacks control over schedule and/or money;
  • Has large amounts of money or costly items he or she cannot reasonably afford;
  • Involvement in systems (social services, PINS, courts, etc.);
  • Works more than s/he is in school or does not often attend school;
  • Carries weapons while absent from care;
  • Has knowledge about the geography of multiple urban areas;
  • Experiences suicidal ideations and/or depression

Physical Indicators of Child Trafficking


  • Has untreated injuries;
  • Has old and new injuries and/or is injured frequently;
  • Explanations for injuries are inconsistent with their severity;
  • Has had multiple sexually transmitted infections and/or abortions;
  • Has suspicious tattoos or burn marks (branding);
  • Exhibits overt sexualized behavior;
  • Exhibits evidence of sexual abuse;

Psychological/Behavioral Indicators of Child Trafficking

  • Has heightened sense of fear or distrust of authority;
  • Is unwilling to disclose whereabouts or information about parents or caregivers;
  • Is restricted in communication and/or displays anxious, fearful, depressed, submissive, tense and nervous behavior;
  • Is unwilling or unable to identify as a victim;
  • Displays behaviors aligned with a trauma history or PTSD;
  • Has many inconsistencies in his or her story;
  • Multiple youth retell the same story in the same way many times, giving the appearance that the story has been coached;
  • Is scared of consequences to a degree greater than a situation (for example being late) warrants.

Information taken from