Join the Fight Against Human Trafficking

Karen Sylvester

By: Karen Sylvester AAP, CAMS, CRCM, NCP

A scary phenomenon is happening across this country that has many people on edge – young people are disappearing without a trace. The question is: what is happening to them? Unfortunately, this phenomenon in many cases is due to human trafficking. Our young people are being “friended” by strangers through various social media outlets available to them. These “friends” encourage them to meet them or promise a way to earn money. When the meetings occur, they are lured or even kidnapped into a life they would have never imagined.

Human trafficking is defined by Google as “modern-day slavery,” and “involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women and children are trafficked in many countries, including the United States. Victims of human trafficking are frequently lured by false promises of lucrative jobs, stability, education or a loving relationship. The average age of the victims is between 12 and 13 years old.”
Financial institutions have an opportunity to help those who are being trafficked, but first we must understand the signs. Some signs of trafficking include multiple individuals coming in to open accounts, lack of eye contact, returned mail, not holding their own identification as the soon to be account holder, cash or clustered deposits and an address that is the same for all those opening accounts.

What can you do to help? Be aware of the signs and have the initiative to help. A financial institution can help by posting signs in restrooms with the Trafficking Hotline phone number (888-3737-888) or even a phone the victim can discreetly use to call for help. Another resource for victims are “Safe Places.” To be a designated as a “Safe Place,” an organization should be prepared for any youth in crisis to walk into the location and tell the staff they need help. Then, the victim can be put into a room until law enforcement arrives. A few common Safe Place locations include libraries, fire stations and even some convenience stores such as QuikTrip.

Your financial institution may or may not want to become a Safe Place. However, there is an opportunity to display the information for the human trafficking hotline (888-3737-888) for those victims to know there is help available for them. Reporting the activity to your Compliance Officer for further disposition of the information, which may include contacting law enforcement, a Suspicious Activity Report or information sharing provisions of the USA Patriot Act.