Spotting the signs of modern slavery

Men, women and children are often hidden in plain sight. But by spotting unusual behaviour in your everyday life you can help us put a stop to ruthless criminals. 

If it doesn’t feel right, report it. 

Have a read through these real stories of people like you noticing odd behaviour and making a call. Each resulted in freedom.

Reporting a concern

If you believe a person is being trafficked and is in immediate danger, you should call 999 straight away.

Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or submit a report online.

You can also report suspicions of trafficking by calling 101 or visiting your local police station.

Spot the signs

Sexual exploitation

Many men. Turning up and leaving throughout the day. Timid females. Rarely leaving, but changing every few weeks. For the people living in the flat next door, the behaviour seemed very suspicious. They reported their concerns to the police. 

The police looked into the report and applied for a warrant. Inside they found an Eastern European female. She’d been sold between brothels for five years. That day, she walked free from slavery. Bravely, she worked with a Justice and Care Navigator to recover and give evidence against her traffickers. Her courage led to 129 potential women identified and five abusers prosecuted. 

If you notice unusual activity, don’t delay. Speak up. 

Common signs of sexual exploitation include different males visiting a property for a short time at all times of the day and night, victims showing signs of physical abuse and being under control.

Labour exploitation

He slept on a mattress. In a cupboard. Under the stairs. He worked at a restaurant and was forced to work on building sites. Instead of payment, he was plied with alcohol. 

For a local resident living nearby, something didn’t feel right. Concerned about the number of people living in one property and worried that they were being controlled, they contacted the local police in Scotland. 

The man is now safe and being given the help he needs. Together with the support of our Navigator, he is beginning to engage with the police investigation.

If you notice something that doesn’t seem right, don’t delay. Report it.

Common signs of labour exploitation include an unusually large number of people living together, workers being collected and dropped off in one vehicle, a lack of protective equipment or someone living on the site of work.

Domestic servitude

Mia* arrived at the hospital with a leg needing urgent medical attention, glammed up and wearing heels. The people that brought her in wouldn’t let her speak for herself. Mia had no medical records. Fake names and addresses were given. 

“I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew something wasn’t right,” said the nurse who examined her. The nurse put a flag on Mia’s records. Mia was taken to multiple hospitals by her controllers. The flag alerted the different staff. Something wasn’t right. An alert was sent to the Modern Slavery Safeguarding hub at the local council and to the police. 

Mia was being kept in a wealthy 9-bed house, with locks on her door and no personal possessions. When our Navigator moved Mia to a safe house, she had just one t-shirt to pack. 

Two of Mia’s controllers have been arrested under modern slavery offences and are awaiting trial. Mia is safe and receiving the medical care and support she needs.

If something feels amiss, raise your concerns. 

Signs of someone being held in domestic servitude can include rarely leaving the home where they are working, being abused (physically and/or verbally) and not having many personal possessions.

Criminal exploitation

“More people need to know about it,” says Susan. “They need to just check on their neighbours. If there is something you think is not right, just make a phone call to the police because I wish somebody had done that for me.”

Vulnerable, Susan was easy prey for the drug gang that took over her home. They forced their way in one day and told the grandmother she had to do exactly what they wanted or else face violence. These were not hollow threats – during their time they took over her house, Susan suffered broken ribs and a cut tongue.

Susan was forced to sleep on the floor and deliver drugs within her neighbourhood day and night. It was not only her that suffered but also children who were forced to work the drug line operating from Susan’s home. 

Today she’s free – thanks to the work of Justice and Care and police responding to local intelligence. But Susan believes if neighbours and others had said something earlier, her plight would have been much shorter.

If you notice unusual activity, don’t delay. Speak up.

Top Tips

“You could be the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle” – Julie, ex-police officer and Justice and Care Navigator

Julie’s top tips include:

Never be worried about making a mistake. The police will investigate your report and use discretion as they follow it up.

You’re not wasting police time. They would rather have 25 mistaken cases of exploitation, rather than risk missing a victim of modern slavery.

You will be taken seriously. 

Your report will be acted upon. You may never hear that the police are acting on it, but your report could be the missing piece of the jigsaw.

Watch Jessie's story