Human trafficking—a form of modern slavery—is one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world. It exploits an estimated 45 million people a year1 and generates approximately $150 billion in profits.2 Though the concept of human slavery is certainly not new, some are unaware of the impact and extent of human trafficking in the 21st century, both at home and abroad.
The good news is that the financial industry can play a part in disrupting this heinous crime. With proper education, knowledge of red flags and victim indicators, and by building strong relationships with law enforcement, the financial industry can help disrupt the problem of modern slavery.
Hidden in Plain Sight
According to the Foundation for a Slavery Free World,3 there are 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. The Global Slavery Index4 estimates upwards of 40 million. In the U.S., the statistics are equally jarring. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reported that approximately 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation and 19 percent involves labor exploitation.5 According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80 percent are female and half are children.6
The Action Means Purpose (A-M-P) model7 on page 19 is helpful in understanding the definition of human trafficking. Yet the extent of the problem remains a bit more difficult to define. “Hidden in plain sight” is a term used in the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, an effort that aims to combat human trafficking. This phrase represents the difficulty of spotting human trafficking on the surface.
In a 2015 edition of Frontline, the Public Broadcasting Service illustrated the divergence between reported instances of human trafficking and actual arrests in the U.S.8 The article noted that in 2014, a federally funded hotline for U.S. trafficking victims received more than 21,000 calls. During that same period, the Department of Justice made only 184 convictions for trafficking, which shows the disparity between reports and arrests.9