Service Before Self, Honor Above All

Human Trafficking

Frequently Asked Questions

Is human trafficking another word for smuggling?

No. There are many fundamental differences between the crimes of human trafficking and human smuggling. Both are entirely separate federal crimes in the U.S. Most notably, smuggling is a crime against a country’s borders, whereas human trafficking is a crime against a person. Also, while smuggling requires illegal border crossing, human trafficking involves commercial sex acts or labor or services that are induced through force, fraud or coercion. Unlike smuggling, human trafficking does not require transportation.

Is human trafficking a crime that must involve some form of travel, transportation or movement across state or national borders? 

No. Although the word “trafficking” sounds like movement, the federal definition of human trafficking in the U.S. does not require transportation. In other words, transportation may or may not be involved in the crime of human trafficking and it is not a required component.

Who are the victims?

There is not one consistent face of trafficking victims. Trafficked persons in the United States can be men or women, adults or children, foreign nationals or US citizens. Some are well-educated, while others have no formal education.

Do victims of human trafficking self-identify as a victim of a crime and ask for help immediately?

Often not. Victims of human trafficking often do not seek help immediately, due to lack of trust, self blame or being directly trained by traffickers to distrust authorities

Does human trafficking only occur in illegal underground industries?

While human trafficking does occur in illegal and underground markets, it can also occur in legal and legitimate settings.

Who is at risk of becoming a victim of human trafficking?

Since human trafficking victims can be men or women, adults or children and foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, trafficking is a crime that cuts across race, nationality, gender, age and socio-economic background. However, human traffickers typically prey on individuals who are vulnerable in some way.

Does physical violence have to be involved in human trafficking cases?

No.  Under federal law, an individual who uses physical violence or psychological abuse, threats, fraud and/or coercion to force someone into labor or commercial sex acts is considered a human trafficker.  Therefore, while some victims are experiencing beatings, rape and other forms of physical violence, many victims are controlled by threats against the victims’ family or promises of a better life.

Do victims always come from a low-income or poor background?

No. Human trafficking victims can come from a range of backgrounds and some may come from middle and upper class families.

To obtain additional information visit the Polaris Project at  

What is Human Trafficking – Recognizing Human Trafficking – Frequently Asked Questions – Human Trafficking Laws – About the NTATT – Request a Community Presentation – Links to Other Helpful Resources

This website is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs and the U.S. Department of Justice.  Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for or necessarily endorse this website (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies or any services or tools provided).