CHARLOTTE -- More than 12 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Cases in North Carolina are increasing.
"Most people have no idea," said Assistant Special Agent In Charge Delbert Richburg, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. "And in North Carolina it's a problem that we've seen on the rise over the last several years."
Most of the time, human trafficking involves people from other countries.
"They're promised work in a restaurant, in child care and when they get here, of course, that work doesn't exist,” said Richburg. “And then they're forced into prostitution."
According to information from the Charlotte Human Trafficking Task Force, North Carolina has become a top state for cases. Estimates show that 61 percent of victims are Hispanic, 18 percent are African and a growing number are Asians.
"Human trafficking can be broken down into two areas. It's sex trafficking and also labor trafficking," said Richburg.
This month, Governor Bev Perdue proclaimed January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in an effort to increase public attention to the crime.
"Most of our cases have been generated by tips from the public so it's very important that people for the public to be aware of trafficking signs,” said Richburg.
Many places are holding an emergency bag supply drive during January to help people rescued from human trafficking rings.
National Human Trafficking Hotline
Do you know someone like this? Some common warning signs of human trafficking are:
Behavior Warning Signs
Someone who seems fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous
Someone who avoids eye contact
Someone who shows signs of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
Someone who has an inconsistent story or appears to be lying
Employment Warning Signs
Someone who doesn't leave his/her place of employment or only leaves at odd hours
Someone who's boss "holds" or "invests" his/her money for him/her
Someone with a boss or manager in prostitution, stripping, or an escort service
Someone who hasn't been paid, has been paid very little, or is paid only in tips
Someone who has an very large debt
Someone who did not understand the terms or conditions of his/her employment when he/she was recruited
Lack of Control
Someone who doesn't have control of his/her own identification
Someone who has few or no possessions
Someone who is not allowed or able to speak for himself/herself or is made to speak through a translator
Someone who is unsure of where he/she is or lives or has no sense of time
While the presence of one or more of these warning signs does not necessarily mean someone is being enslaved, they are red flags that deserve notice. Remember: intervening in a human trafficking situation may be very dangerous; call law enforcement.