Exploitation is hidden in plain sight

An estimated 130,000 people are trapped in modern slavery in the UK right now.

Thanks for taking the next step in helping us stop trafficking by engaging with our poster. On this page you will find out how you can help be a part of stopping trafficking by understanding how it happens, reporting what you see and taking action.

What is Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery?

Trafficking is an underground economy that is embedded within our communities. Traffickers are recruiting those vulnerable in our towns and cities, they are moving their profits through the banks we use and they are moving products and people through businesses. Trafficking is currently high profit and low risk and we need you to help us change that.   

Human trafficking and modern slavery are thought to be amongst the most widespread crimes in the world, affecting millions of men, women and children each day.

Human Trafficking is made up of three elements:

  • Movement or recruitment by 
  • Deception or coercion for
  • The purpose of exploitation

Modern Slavery acts as an umbrella term, which covers a number of human rights abuses, of which human trafficking is one.

Modern slavery encompasses:

  • Slavery
  • Human trafficking
  • Servitude
  • Forced or compulsory labour

Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude, and inhumane treatment.

Types of Exploitation

There are various different ways that people are exploited by traffickers. Here are a few of the most common forms of exploitation

Sexual exploitation illustration showing neon sign and cash

This is when someone is deceived, coerced or forced to take part in sexual activity. Places where someone could be sexually exploited:

  • Prostitution
  • Brothels – massage/sauna
  • Escort agencies
  • Pole/lap dancing
  • Forced marriage
  • Stripping on a web cam
  • Phone sex lines
  • Internet chat rooms
  • Pornography
  • Mail order brides
  • Sex tourism

Labour exploitation illustration showing mining equipment, coffee sacks and tinned fish

This refers to situations where people are coerced to work for little or no remuneration, often under threat of punishment. There are a number of means through which a person can be coerced, including:

  • Use of violence or intimidation
  • Accumulated debt
  • Retention of identity papers
  • Threat of exposure to immigration authorities

All types of labour, within every industry, are susceptible to labour exploitation. Some common sectors and industries that are identified as vulnerable include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Factory work
  • Hospitality
  • Construction
  • Agriculture
  • Fishing
  • Car washes
  • Nail bars

A domestic worker or helper is a person who works within their employer’s home, performing a variety of tasks. This arrangement becomes exploitative when there are restrictions on the domestic worker’s movement, and they are forced to work long hours for little pay. They may also suffer physical and sexual abuse.

Domestic servitude can be particularly hard to identify as it happens in private households but it is estimated that 16 million people are exploited in the private sector which includes domestic work.

Forced marriage illustration showing wedding rings and sad thought bubble

This is when a person is put under pressure to marry someone. They may be threatened with physical or sexual violence or placed under emotional or psychological distress to achieve these aims.

Situations where you may find forced marriage used:

  • To gain access into a country
  • To gain access to benefits

Drug trade illustration showing various types of narcotics

Forced criminality illustration showing fake DVD, benefits paperwork and begging sign

This is when somebody is forced to carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception. Forced criminality can take many forms, including:

  • Drug trade, e.g. cannabis cultivation, drug distribution
  • Begging
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Bag snatching
  • ATM theft
  • Selling of counterfeit goods

We have seen a significant rise in the trafficking of children into forced criminality (sometimes referred to as Child Criminal Exploitation or CCE). The most prevalent form of CCE is related to ‘County Lines’ gangs who coerce children into participating in the movement and sale of drugs. Children can be coerced with gifts, money or perceived status, or they can be threatened with violence or blackmailed.

Forced criminality also encompasses social welfare fraud. This takes place when exploiters falsely apply for tax credits and other welfare benefits using the victims’ details. It is not only the state that is the victim of social welfare fraud, there is often horrific abuse used against the individual in order to coerce them into falsely applying for benefits.

Organ harvesting illustration showing a kidney with a price tag

The trafficking in organs involves removing a part of the body, commonly the kidneys or a lobe of the liver, to sell often as an illegal trade. Organs can be taken in a number of ways:

  • Trade – a victim formally or informally agrees to sell an organ, but are then cheated because they are not paid for the organ, or are paid less than the promised price
  • Ailments – a vulnerable person is treated for an ailment, which may or may not exist, and the organs are removed without the victim’s knowledge
  • Extortion – a victim may be kidnapped from their family and organs removed without consent

Spot the Signs

You can be a part of responding to human trafficking by becoming aware of how you might spot it in your own community, and reporting your suspicions.

There are a number of signs that are common across all types of exploitation. Including, if a person:

  • Coercion and Control

    Does someone act as if instructed by another, as though they are forced or coerced to carry out specific activities? Do they seem bonded by debt, or reliant on another person for access to money?

  • Physical or Psychological Abuse

    Does someone show signs of physical abuse such as bruising or persistent injuries?  Does someone show signs of psychological abuse such as lacking self-esteem, seeming overly anxious, scared or distrustful?

  • Isolation

    Does someone seem unwillingly isolated? Do they have little or no contact with family or loved ones? Are they unable to communicate? Do they lack access to basic documents or money?

Many of the main types of exploitation have significant signs that are specific to them. Tap a type of exploitation below to find out more.

Significant signs for individuals potentially selling sex:

  • Is the person closely guarded?
  • Does the person have any signs of physical abuse, such as cigarette burns or tattoos indicating ownership?
  • Is the person allowed to keep the money they make? A trafficked sex worker will have restricted or no access to earnings
  • Is there any evidence that the person has been forced, intimidated or coerced into providing sexual services?
  • Does the person have an English vocabulary of only sexualised words?
  • Are there any signs the person is experiencing emotional trauma as a result of the work they are doing?

Significant signs at a location:

  • Do the letterbox or any doors of the property appear to have been sealed from inside?
  • Do the people potentially selling sex also sleep on the premises? Brothels are not normally used as accommodation for sex workers
  • Are the people potentially selling sex being moved between suspected brothels?

  • Do workers show signs of psychological or physical abuse? Do they appear frightened, withdrawn or confused?
  • Do workers have restricted movement on leaving or entering the premises? Are they always accompanied?
  • Are workers forced to stay in accommodation provided by the employer? Is the accommodation overcrowded?
  • Are workers forced to give incorrect information or claim to not know personal details?
  • Is the employer or somebody other than the worker holding the employee’s passport and legal documents?
  • Do workers lack the necessary protective equipment or suitable clothing? Have they received basic training?
  • Is there a group of workers of a similar nationality/age/gender who have a representative by whom they appear ‘coached’?

  • Does the person seem held in the employer’s home and forced to provide household support, such as care for children, cleaning and cooking?
  • Does the person appear to be working in excess of normal hours?
  • Does the person ever leave the accommodation unaccompanied?
  • Is there any indication the person has been subject to abuse, insults, threats or violence?
  • Does the person interact much with the family? Are they forced to eat alone?

  • Has the person given their consent, or are they able to give their consent, to marry?
  • Has the person become withdrawn? Do they spend less time with loved ones?
  • Are there any signs of physical or psychological abuse?
  • Does the person seem scared of their partner or another member of the family?

Significant signs of individuals trafficked into forced street crime, such as forced begging, drugs trade and pickpocketing:

  • Is a large group of adult or child beggars moved daily to different locations but return to the same location every night?
  • Is a large group of children guarded by an adult?

Significant signs at a property of cannabis cultivation:

  • Are there metal grills over the windows, or are they permanently covered on the inside?
  • Are there visits to the property late at night or early in the morning and are they irregular?
  • Is there a pungent smell coming from the property?
  • Has electricity been tacked on from neighbouring properties or directly from power lines?

How to Report

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger then you should contact the emergency services on 999.  

If you do not believe someone is in immediate danger and you are in safe position to do so then you can report what you have seen or experienced on The STOP APP.

We have developed The STOP APP as a way for the general public to report suspicions, share stories, and find out more about human trafficking and modern slavery. If you have a story you would like to share, or a suspicion you would like to report, you can download the STOP APP and contact us.

All reports and stories shared help us to develop our data, building a rich picture of trafficking hotspots, tactics and trends. We use this data to prevent trafficking and make communities more resilient. If you choose to report anonymously then you cannot be traced back to your report and no record of it will stay on your phone.

Alternatively you can fill in a webform with the same information here or contact us on the following email address:

[email protected]

Not sure what to put in a report?

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    • Say specific locations if you know them such as where you saw something or experienced something
    • Say any details on the victims or traffickers that you feel safe disclosing.
    • Say the specifics of what you saw and why it made you suspicious – the more detail the better we can corroborate.
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    • Report if you are in an unsafe situation.
    • Use this as a substitute for contacting the Police in a dangerous situation. Call 999 if there is a safeguarding risk
    • Leave your details if you wish to remain anonymous. 

Are you or someone you know a victim of exploitation?

If you or someone you know is a victim of exploitation, then there are organisations that can help you. 

National Referral Mechanism

24/7 support if you are currently in or have previously been exploited in human trafficking and would like support, then you can refer yourself into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). It's available 24/7 and can provide a translator in any language. The NRM is the central body of referral and support for victims of trafficking..

0800 808 3733


The Modern Slavery Helpline

If you would like to be signposted to other local support then you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline.

08000 121 700


What does STOP THE TRAFFIK do to help prevent trafficking?

We work to create an environment where trafficking is high risk and low profit in 3 key ways.

1. Recruitment:

We make it harder for traffickers to recruit new victims by delivering closely targeted and data-led prevention campaigns to at-risk communities, making them more resilient to traffickers’ tactics.

2. Money:

We make it harder for traffickers to move their money through financial institutions by working with global financial Institutions. Our data helps to develop understandings of traffickers’ financial typologies and helps financial institutions to spot and remove the proceeds of crime.

3. Demand:

We make it harder for traffickers to embed their operations within legitimate supply chains by working with organisations to risk-map their operations. Our data helps lead our business risk analysis work ensuring that blind spots are found, and potential risks are mitigated.

How you can help

If you would like to help tackle trafficking, then there are ways that you can show your support and get involved. We’ll break a few options down for you below:

  • Donate to STOP THE TRAFFIK

    Donating to us is a great way to support our work and to help prevent trafficking around the world. We are funded by a mixture of grants and individual donors. By pledging a regular donation to us, you can help us to build a sustainable and grass-roots base of funding for our work. You could give as little as the price of a coffee a month, or maybe you’d like to give us 1% of your income? However big or small, it all adds up! Find out more about how you can donate here.

  • Talk about Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in your community

    Trafficking thrives in the shadows. As an errant economy hidden in plain sight, the operations of traffickers often go unnoticed by the general public. Learning about the tactics of traffickers and the indicators of exploitation can help you spot the signs of trafficking in your community. Sharing this knowledge with your friends, family, colleagues can help you community become more risk-aware and resilient. This could be as small or large scale as you like, and if you get a big group together we could even arrange a training session for you!

  • Spread the word on social media

    With the power of technology, there’s no need to be bound by physical geography in your awareness raising efforts! Follow us on social media and share our posts to help amplify our message and expand our reach.

  • Fundraise for STOP THE TRAFFIK

    You could take your donations and support one step further by taking part in a fundraiser. Whether you’re looking to cook up a storm with a bake sale, get the heart pumping with a sponsored run or a bike ride, or clean up your local park with a litter-picking drive – you can do something good for yourself or your community while raising money and awareness for our cause. Call it a win-win-win! Find out more about fundraising here.

  • Make your company more risk-aware

    We specialise in helping businesses to identify areas of risk in their supply chains, and to help them find ways of eliminating the possibility of exploitation within their operations. We don’t just do this for large businesses, we also focus on helping small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to be anti-trafficking leader with our SME Toolkit. You can find out more about our SME Toolkit and download it for free here. Why not share it with the organisation you work for!

How is Costa Coffee helping to prevent modern slavery?

Exploitation can be hidden within plain sight. Organisations that take a proactive approach to preventing human trafficking and modern slavery can mitigate the risk of exploitation being hidden within their operations.

Costa Coffee has a zero-tolerance approach to any form of slavery, forced labour and human trafficking. Click here to learn more about Costa Coffee’s response to modern slavery.