All Articles

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

What is Human Trafficking? 
Also known as “modern slavery,” human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings through recruitment or abduction by means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of forced labor, debt bondage or sexual exploitation.  Human trafficking victims are often forced, through sexual, physical and/or psychological violence, to perform work under slavery-like conditions.  Tactics used by recruiters, traffickers and their associates are often the same tactics used by batterers and can mirror dynamics of domestic violence. Traffickers use a variety of coercive methods to control their victims including, luring their victims with false promises of economic opportunity, withholding identification, work authorization, or travel documents, and paying very little or not paying at all for work. 
National Human Trafficking Statistics report that 24.9 million people are victims of forced labor, 16 million people are trafficked for forced labor in the private economy, 4.8 million people are trafficked for forced sexual exploitation, and 4.1 million people are trafficked for forced labor in state-imposed forced labor.  Women and girls are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, accounting for 71% of all victims.  Source (ILO, 2017) 

How Can REALTORS® Help?
REALTORS® are in a unique position to help identify human trafficking in their communities through access to homes and knowledge of specific neighborhoods.  As most human traffickers are hiding in plain sight, REALTORS® or clients who are buying or selling a home are more likely to look at a potentially suspicious situation with fresh eyes.  That house down the street with unexplained comings and goings may not be noticed until it potentially impacts the purchase or sale of a property.  Also, from the commercial market perspective, there might be an abandoned warehouse that has been on the market for months, just sitting there empty, or seemingly empty. Places such as this are available for traffickers to use, if only temporarily, which is the goal. And as real estate transactions move property from one party to another, this type of activity can cater to human traffickers. 

 Human Trafficking Signs to Be Aware of:  (Spotting Human Trafficking in Real Estate,
Your primary purpose as a REALTOR® is to facilitate the purchase and sale of property for your clients but that doesn't preclude you from being an advocate for your community and potential victims of human trafficking.  In fact, as REALTORS® you have a stake in ensuring the neighborhoods in your community are safe for everyone, as safety is one of the number one concerns for homebuyers.  Below are some signs to be aware of as you move about your community in the daily routine of your business, from Spotting Human Trafficking in Real Estate,

-If the seller demands to be present during the time of the showing, and refuses to let the real estate agent be alone or is overly persistent to the real estate agent, then their motives could be questionable. 

-An open house that has an unusually significant amount of traffic moving in and out of it. 

-If there are school-aged children who are not in school, but rather, they are in a home that is either empty or is having an open house, it is worth inquiring as to why this is the case. 

-When tenants or guests of a home or property lack knowledge of the neighborhood or the area, this raises concerns that they are only in this location temporarily, and perhaps not allowed to “explore” the area on their own. Remember, human trafficking victims typically only stay in a single place for a short time before being moved on to another place. 

-If a real estate agent (or individual who is looking at a home with an interest to purchase) notices locks on the interior doors or windows, this is a red flag. Even if the house is currently empty, it is worth raising an alarm regarding those who were in this location beforehand. 

-If one of the family members seems to stand out from the rest, whether because they dress much differently or perhaps they have a different level of hygiene, or maybe they avoid eye contact with visitors or neighbors unlike the rest of the family, they could be a trafficked victim. 

What to do If You See Something Wrong:
If you spot any of the signs above or just feel like a situation isn't right, it's ok to ask a few questions as long as you are not putting yourself at risk.  Rather than identifying the issues during a showing or a meeting at the property with the client, wait until you can discuss it with your Designated Broker then use email or possibly a phone call to address your concerns.  If you feel the situation can't wait or someone is at risk for harm, please contact local law enforcement immediately or contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at