Spotting the signs

Modern Slavery


Domestic Abuse
Domestic Abuse
Scams and Older People
Scams and Older People
Modern Slavery
Modern Slavery
Child Sexual Exploitation
Child Sexual Exploitation
Serious Violence
Serious Violence
Loneliness and Vulnerability
Loneliness and Vulnerability


Modern Slavery

Child Sexual Exploitation

Serious Violence

Loneliness and Vulnerability

Signs to look out for

There are a number of indicators that can be signs that someone is a victim of modern slavery. Some of the key indicators are below.

Signs that a property or business could be a base for modern slavery:


  • The property seems too small for the numbers of people that appear to live there, and seems badly looked after

  • There are bars or reflective coatings covering the windows or the curtains are always drawn

  • People appear to be bundled in and out of the property by others, often during darkness

  • Large numbers of young women have suddenly been moved in to the property, which then receives lots of visitors day and night

  • CCTV is installed at the entrance to the property

  • There are signs that electricity has been tacked on from neighbouring properties or directly from power lines

  • In smaller towns or rural areas where children are sent to sell drugs as part of county lines, the gang will take over the house of a vulnerable person or drug addict and the child will be based there for a period of time. Such properties are known as ‘trap houses’


  • Employees at your local café, hotel, car wash or nail bar are reticent to engage with customers, or are not properly dressed for the work, or are scruffy and malnourished

  • Employees on a building site, farm or car wash are not wearing appropriate clothing or safety gear for the job.  They may not have warm enough clothes for the weather.  There may be signs that people both live and work on site

Unseen UK’s website has this short film about spotting the signs at car washes.

Personal characteristics of victims

Enslaved people tend to exhibit some common behaviours or characteristics, no matter what industry they are involved in.

Tell-tale signs of a potential victim of modern slavery may include:


  1. They seem malnourished and tired

  2. They always appear scruffy and unwashed, or their clothing is unsuitable for the work they are doing

  3. If from overseas, they don’t speak much English

  4. They lack personal possessions

  5. They are reluctant to make eye contact or talk to people; they appear submissive and unhappy

  6. They always seem to be working

  7. They appear fearful, uneasy, anxious, and don’t trust authorities

  8. They allow others to answer questions put to them

  9. They have untreated injuries

  10. They have limited social contact or contact with their family

  11. They display signs of ritual abuse and witchcraft (juju)

  12. They don’t know their home or work address


  1. They are being cared for by an adult that is not their parent or legal guardian, and the quality of the relationship does not seem positive

  2. They attend school sporadically, if at all

  3. There are a number of unrelated children at one address

  4. They may appear to have developed a bond with their exploiter and have been groomed not to disclose their abuse – however, they are likely to be scared and traumatised.

The Salvation Army has produced a short film about spotting the signs of modern slavery. View it here.

High-risk nationalities

A new report from the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority details the nationalities identified as being most heavily involved in modern slavery in different industries.  Here are some of the findings:


  • Exploited workers in nail bars are typically Vietnamese, with some Chinese

  • Those in food service, catering and hotels, are mainly UK nationals and Romanians

  • Those in car washes tend to be predominantly Romania, with smaller numbers from Bulgaria, Albania, Poland and Lithuania

  • Romanians are also the biggest group working in warehousing and distribution

  • 32 nationalities have been found exploited in the food processing and food packaging industries, mostly Eastern Europe and the Baltic states

  • Those in shellfish gathering tend to come mainly from China, but also the UK, Poland and Vietnam

  • Romanians and Pakistanis are the common nationalities found in manufacturing

  • Workers in recycling and waste disposal come mostly from Moldova, Lithuania, Romania

  • Cleaners tend to be from Romania, Poland, Hungary, or Bulgaria

  • Construction workers have been identified from 17 countries but mostly from Eastern Europe.

What should you do if you suspect it?

You can call the police on 101, or there is a Modern Slavery Helpline, 08000 121 700, which you can call to get help, report a suspicion, or seek advice.

There is also a 24-hour Referral Helpline hosted by the Salvation Army on 0300 3038151.