Human traffickers lure and ensnare individuals into labor trafficking and sex trafficking situations using methods of control such as force, fraud, or coercion. There is no one profile of a trafficker. Essentially, human traffickers can be anyone who is willing to exploit another human being for profit.
Traffickers include those who recruit, transport, harbor, obtain, and exploit victims, often using force, threats, lies, or other physical and psychological methods of control. They can be foreign nationals and U.S. citizens, males and females, family members, intimate partners, acquaintances, and strangers.
Based on an analysis of human trafficking cases that have been identified, examples of potential traffickers include:
- Intimate partners/family members
- Gangs and criminal networks
- Brothel and massage parlor owners and managers
- Growers and crewleaders in agriculture
- Labor brokers
- Employers of domestic servants
- Small business owners and managers
- Large factory owners and corporations
Traffickers lure victims into exploitative situations often by preying on their hopes to improve their lives and the lives of their families. They often promise a chance for a better life – a good job, a loving relationship, or new and exciting opportunities. In other cases, traffickers kidnap victims and use physical and psychological violence to control them, forcing them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
A wide range of criminals, including individual pimps, family operations, small businesses, loose-knit decentralized criminal networks, and international organized criminal operations, can be human traffickers. Often the traffickers and their victims share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background, allowing the trafficker to better understand and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims.
There are two primary factors that drive human traffickers: high profits and low risk. This powerful combination is driving the explosive spread of human trafficking, making it one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world.