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Human Traf­fick­ing

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It is the exploitation of men, women, and children for forced labor or sex by a third-party for profit or gain.

Texas is on the forefront of combating this hideous crime. In 2016 — in one of his first major initiatives — Attorney General Paxton formed the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section (HTTOC), tasked with combating human trafficking across our state.

As designated by the Texas Legislature in Senate Bill 72, the Office of the Attorney General also leads the Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinating Council, which is tasked with creating a strategic plan to halt and prevent human trafficking in Texas. Read Phase I of this plan here.

25 Million

People enslaved worldwide^


Victims of labor trafficking in Texas any given time^^


Victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time

Citation for Statistics:
^Global Estimates of Modern Slavery:  Forced Labour and Force Marriage, International Labour Organization, Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organization for Migration (2017)
^^Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Nale, N.L. Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., M.I.M., Cook Heffon, L., Nehme, J. (2016).  Human Trafficking by the Numbers:  The Initial Benchmark of Prevalence and Economic Impact for Texas.  Austin, TX: Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the University of Texas at Austin.

The section has already won significant battles against human traffickers, including:

  • Coordinated with the federal government and California Attorney General's Office to facilitate the permanent worldwide shutdown of, the largest purveyor of escort ads in the United States
  • Pled guilty to Trafficking of Persons and Engaging in Organized Crime, and pled Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer guilty to Money Laundering
  • Developed and produced a powerful training video — designed to mobilize all Texans to “Be the One” in the fight against human trafficking
  • Trained more than 25,000 people in person across the state of Texas on human trafficking
  • Assisted in numerous prosecutions of human trafficking cases resulting in multiple felony convictions and 441 years of prison time for traffickers in Texas

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Note: English and Spanish closed captioning is available.

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Facts on Human Trafficking

What are the types of human trafficking?

Human trafficking affects both adults and children, men and women, and people from all parts of Texas, the United States, and around the world.

There are four major types of trafficking:

Adult Sex Trafficking - Trafficking of adults for sex by force, fraud, or coercion in strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors, street prostitution, or internet prostitution

Adult Labor Trafficking - Trafficking adults for labor by force, fraud, or coercion into industries, such as agriculture, food service, manufacturing, domestic servitude, or hospitality

Child Sex Trafficking - Trafficking children, under the age of 18, by any means into the commercial sex industry

Child Labor Trafficking - Trafficking children, under the age of 18, by force, fraud or coercion into industries such as agriculture, food service, manufacturing, domestic servitude, or hospitality

What do traffickers look like?

There is no one particular look to a trafficker. Traffickers are people who are willing to treat other people like objects or commodities that they can buy, sell, or exploit for their own benefit. They can be:

  • People of all races
  • People of both genders
  • Family members
  • Peers
  • Employers
  • Gang and cartel members
  • Strip club owners/managers
  • Intimate partners
  • Neighbors and friends
  • Online acquaintances

Do children have special protections under the law?

A child, under the age of 18, is a victim of sex trafficking, if they are being prostituted by someone other than themselves, regardless of whether the child complied with the trafficker’s demands or actively resisted.

Sex trafficking of children can be completed by any means and does not require the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Some of the more common methods of recruitment of children include:

  • A promise of romance, love, or acceptance,
  • Offers of cash, luxury items, a place to stay, independence or a glamorous lifestyle,
  • The persuasion of a peer who is already involved,
  • Meeting the immediate need of a child for food, clothing, shelter, or love
  • Taking advantage of a vulnerability or a desperate situation
  • Flattery, lies, manipulation, deception
  • Exploiting an existing position of power
  • Making an offer that is too good to be true
  • Establishing relationship with false or tenuous connection

What are common myths about human trafficking?

Myth:  We live in a slavery free world.

Reality:  There are more people enslaved today than there were at the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  There are 25 million people enslaved worldwide with another 15 million in forced marriages.  (See the International Labour Organization 2017 report.)

Myth:  Trafficking is a crime all about movement, immigration, and 18-wheelers.

Reality:  Smuggling and Trafficking are two distinct crimes.  Smuggling is a crime against the border where someone enters a country without the appropriate documentation, typically by paying someone else to smuggle them across the border.  It requires transport and movement from one country to another, and both the person coming in without permission as well as the person bringing them are committing a crime. 

Trafficking on the other hand does not require movement.  You can be trafficked in your own home, and you can be trafficked in your own country by a fellow U.S. citizen.  For example: A mother who brings people to her home to have sex with her underage child is trafficking the child even though the child never leaves the house.  Only the trafficker is committing a crime when they exploit someone else for forced labor or forced sex.  

Myth:  This doesn’t happen in my hometown.

Reality: Trafficking is occurring in cities and towns all across Texas.

To learn how to spot trafficking, check out the "Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking" training video above.

Red Flags for Labor Trafficking

There are several red flags that someone is being forced into labor trafficking, including:

  • Third-party control of schedule and social interaction
  • Evidence of violence: bruises, swelling, scarring, etc.
  • Works excessively long or unusual hours
  • Living where the individual works
  • Living in an area that is not zoned for residential
  • Transported to and from work by employer
  •  Housing, food, and hygiene products all being supplied by the employer
  • Not being paid on a regular schedule
  • Recruited through false promises related to citizenship or working conditions
  • Inability to speak English
  • Identification documents or money are being held by a third-party
  • Malnutrition, dehydration, exhaustion
  • Untreated disease or dental and/or vision problems
  • Chronic pain — e.g., back pain, muscle strains, respiratory issues, etc.

Red Flags for Child Sex Trafficking

Children can be victims of sex trafficking. Important red flags to look for include:

  • Changes in school attendance, habits, friend groups, vocabulary, demeanor, and attitude
  • Sudden appearance of luxury items — e.g., manicures, designer clothes, purses
  • Truancy (absence) from school
  • Sexually provocative clothing
  • Tattoos or branding
  • Refillable gift cards
  • Multiple phones or social media accounts
  • Lying about the existence of social media accounts
  • Provocative pictures posted online or stored on the phone
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Social interaction and schedule being strictly controlled by someone else
  • Isolation from family, friends, and community

Red Flags for Adult Sex Trafficking

Important red flags to look for:

  • Contents of the vehicle/location
  • Hotel receipts
  • Drug-store receipts
  • Lingerie
  • Condoms
  • Female personal hygiene items in a place of business
  • High-end clothing recently purchased
  • Hotel keys
  • Rolls of money
  • Prepaid credit cards
  • Tattooing/branding
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Bruises, swelling, and/or redness
  • Third-party control of the person’s schedule, identifying documents, money, and/or travel
  • Sex ads linked to the individual’s phone number

Red Flags for Illicit Massage Parlors/Spas

  • Permit or license for something other than actual business
  • Male clientele
  • Location may have a guarded entrance
  • Open at unusual hours compared to the businesses on either side
  • Cameras both inside and outside
  • Location storefront may be curtained off/blocked, etc.
  • Location may be locked and opened only when someone at the door with a phone
  • “Employees” may be ferried to and from work by the “spa” or may live at the location
  • Men walking through the parking lot, seem to be confused, and/or talking on their cell phones
  • Condoms in the parking lot, drains, or pipes

How You Can Be the One

Call 911

If the situation is an emergency or you believe someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and alert the authorities. Tell them you think it may be human trafficking, so that it can be routed to the proper investigators. Be sure to share all actionable information you have — including descriptions of cars and people, when and where you saw the conduct, and take a picture if you can safely do so.

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline

After contacting law enforcement, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. You can also text "Help" or "Info" to 233733. Additionally, you can reach the hotline by email: [email protected].

Pay Attention

Pay close attention to the people in your neighborhood and community. Report behaviors that might be evidence of human trafficking. Call as soon as possible after you make the observations. The fresher the information, the more likely law enforcement can take action.

Don't Approach Traffickers

Human traffickers are some of the most violent offenders in Texas. Don't approach them yourself. Instead, contact law enforcement and allow them to respond.

What to Do if You Are Unsure

If you can safely obtain more information, do so. Talk with the individual in a private setting that is non-threatening if you have the type of relationship that allows you to have that conversation comfortably. If you have a concern that such a conversation would put you or that person in danger, then make the call to report instead.

  1. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888 or text “Help” or “Info” to 233733.

The hotline is staffed 24/7 with people trained in recognizing and identifying trafficking. They can help you make sense of the information that you have and recommend next steps.

  1. Call law enforcement or your local district attorney’s office through a non-emergency number and ask to speak to someone who works on trafficking cases.

Many of the larger jurisdictions have specialized law enforcement and assistant district attorneys who can talk through the situation with you.

  1. Call the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

They have victim advocates who specialize in human trafficking stationed across the state.

Department of Public Safety Victim Service Counselors

  1. Call Child Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400 if a child is involved.

Tell them you have concerns for trafficking during your intake call or online report.

Texas Abuse Hotline Login

  1. Call the Office of the Attorney General, Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section at 512-463-1646 or email at [email protected].

The Office of the Attorney General has law enforcement officers specifically trained to combat and investigate human trafficking around the state.

How You Can Get the Training Video

In addition to downloading the video from Vimeo, the training is also available upon request on USB and DVD.


  • If you are a state agency representative, you may request a USB of the training video for your agency.
  • To request a USB for your agency, please email [email protected] with your agency name and mailing address.


  • If you would like a DVD copy of the training video, you may request a copy at [email protected] with your name and mailing address.
  • Both English and Spanish closed captioning included.
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