On an ongoing basis, we ask our supporters to help call attention to youth at risk for child sex trafficking. In an effort to call even more attention to the issue, we’re providing more detailed information about youth at risk for child sex trafficking, and would like to ask you to spread these warning signs for child sex trafficking around your network.

How to identify a child who may be at risk for child sex trafficking

Did you know that children rarely disclose that they have been sexually exploited? Trafficked children often suffer from depression, hostility, stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fear of authority, as well as fear of those who are exploiting them. Outward signs may appear as simple as difficult behavior or resistance to assistance, but could also take on more extreme characteristics.

Below is a list of possible trafficking indicators and warning signs, provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), one of our partners in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Keep in mind that the presence of these warning signs does not definitively mean the child is being trafficked, but serve as clues to be assessed within the broader context of all information presented.

Warning signs for child sex trafficking

  • Chronic runaway/homeless youth.
  • Excess amount of cash in their possession (may be reluctant to explain its source).
  • Hotel keys and key cards.
  • Lying about age/false ID.
  • Inconsistencies when describing and recounting events.
  • Unable or unwilling to give local address or information about parent(s)/guardian.
  • Presence or fear of another person (often an older male or boyfriend who seems controlling).
  • High number of reported sexual partners at a young age.
  • Sexually explicit profiles on social networking sites.
  • Injuries/signs of physical abuse (that they may be reluctant to explain).
  • Inability or fear of social interaction.
  • Demeanor exhibiting fear, anxiety, depression, submissiveness, tenseness, nervousness.
  • Is not enrolled in school or repeated absence from school.
  • Does not consider self a victim.
  • Loyalty to positive feelings toward pimp/trafficker.
  • May try to protect pimp/trafficker from authorities.
  • Prepaid cell phone.

For more at risk warning signs for child sex trafficking, please read NCMEC’s Sex Trafficking Identification Resource, which may help you identify possible child victims of sex trafficking.

What can you do to protect your children?

Open communication is key. One of the most important things you can do to protect your child is to create an environment in which he or she feels comfortable talking with you. You should talk about the dangers of sex trafficking with your kids and encourage them to let you know if they encounter an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation.

You can also educate yourself further by reading NCMEC’s guide for parents and guardians.


NCMEC is a partner in our fight against child sexual exploitation. They operate many programs including AMBER Alerts and the CyberTipline, a congressionally authorized method for reporting crimes against children. You can read more in NCMEC’s guest blog post, “When Time Matters, Technology Matters.”