The following was copied from Thorn’s website. Thorn is an organization created by actor Ashton Kutcher for the development of computer software tools used by law enforcement agencies around the world to combat child sex trafficking.


  • Chronic runaway/homeless youth.
  • Excess amount of cash in their possession (may be reluctant to explain its source).
  • Hotel keys and key cards.
  • Lying about age/false ID.
  • Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events.
  • Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parent(s)/guardian.
  • Presence or fear of another person (often an older male or boyfriend who seems controlling).
  • High number of reported sexual partners at a young age.
  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites.
  • Injuries/signs of physical abuse (that they may be reluctant to explain).
  • Inability or fear of social interaction.
  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness.
  • Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school.
  • Does not consider self a victim.
  • Loyalty to positive feelings toward pimp/trafficker.
  • May try to protect pimp/trafficker from authorities.
  • Prepaid cell phone.

Warning Signs of Human Trafficking

Since human trafficking is often a crime that is hidden in plain sight, it is important to be aware of its warning signs. Some indications that a person may be a victim of human trafficking include (especially in the case of women and children):

  • Appearing malnourished
  • Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement
  • Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
  • Lacking official identification documents
  • Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Living at place of employment
  • Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp
  • Poor physical or dental health 
  • Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
  • Untreated sexually transmitted diseases
  • Small children serving in a family restaurant
  • Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment – barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
  • Not allowing people to go into public alone, or speak for themselves

These warning signs are adapted from information provided by the Polaris Project and its National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Innocents at Risk.

Pimps/traffickers often exhibit the following behaviors or characteristics:

  • Jealous, controlling and violent
  • Significantly older than female companions
  • Promise things that seem too good to be true
  • Encourage victims to engage in illegal activities to achieve their goals and dreams
  • Buys expensive gifts or owns expensive items
  • Is vague about his/her profession
  • Pushy or demanding about sex
  • Encourages inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Makes the victim feel responsible for his/her financial stability. Very open about financial matters.

The following may be used by school administrators and faculty to identify at risk children.

Warning signs that an individual may be being trafficked:

  • Physical abuse such as burn marks, bruises or cuts
  • Unexplained absences from class
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Overly tired in class
  • Withdrawn, depressed, distracted or checked out
  • Brags about making or having lots of money
  • Less appropriately dressed than before or new expensive clothes, accessories or shoes
  • New tattoo (tattoos are often used by pimps as a way to brand victims. Tattoos of a name, symbol of money or barcode could indicate trafficking)
  • Older boyfriend or new friends with a different lifestyle
  • Talks about wild parties or invites other students to attend parties
  • Shows signs of gang affiliation (color colors, notebook doodles of gang symbols, etc.)