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Spot the signs

Knowing how to spot the signs of modern slavery is crucial to eradicating this exploitation and ensuring survivors get the support they deserve. It just takes one person to speak out about what they’ve seen to potentially save someone and make a life-changing difference. Help spread the word about what signs to look out for.


If you believe someone is in immediate danger, call the emergency services on 999.


If you have concerns about a property or a person, call the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline anonymously on 08000 121 700

Here are some of the most common signs of modern slavery and exploitation 

Image by Kyle Broad


  • They’re rarely allowed to travel on their own

  • Appear to be under the control of others

  • Tend not to interact with other people

  • Seem unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work

  • Have relationships which don’t seem right – for example, a young teenager appearing to be the boyfriend/ girlfriend of a much older adult.


  • Signs of physical abuse, such as bruising or untreated injuries

  • Signs of psychological abuse, such as anxiety, agitation, or appearing to be withdrawn and neglected

  • Poor health, malnutrition, or untreated dental conditions

  • Wear clothes that are unsuitable for their work or wearing the same clothes day-in day-out

  • Don’t speak any or have limited English.


  • They avoid eye contact

  • Anxious and unwilling to tell others about their situation

  • Appearing frightened, or hesitant to talk to strangers

  • Fear of or distrust towards law enforcers

  • Fear of deportation

  • Unsure who to trust or where to get help

  • Fear of violence to them or their family if they complain or escape.

Public Transportation


  • They have few or no documents, or someone else is in control of their passport, ID, etc. 

  • Limited opportunities to move freely and dependency on others

  • No control over their own post/mail, no phone or phone held by someone else

  • Few personal possessions.


  • Their movement to and from work is controlled by/dependent on another 

  • They’re always dropped off at, or collected from, work very early in the morning or late at night

  • Children dropped off, or picked up, in private cars or taxis at unusual times and in places where it isn’t clear why they’d be there.


  • Living in dirty, cramped, or overcrowded accommodation

  • Working and living at the same address or living somewhere connected to employment.


You might notice strange activity at an address near you, such as:

  • Many people coming and going at unusual times

  • Someone regularly coming to the address to pick people up and bring them back again

  • Regularly overflowing bins

  • Cannot see into any of the windows

  • Pungent smells coming from the property

  • Unusual noises

A girl feeling sad


  • Be aware that a trafficked person could be working alongside someone who may not be trafficked, mainly if a third-party recruiter has brought them in. They may:

  • Not receive any or total wages

  • Not have a contract or access to the contract

  • Work excessively long hours

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