Victims of modern slavery are being exploited. Their activities result from being continuously coerced and controlled by their exploiters. They will be denied the normal freedoms of movement and association that most people enjoy. They are not able to make the everyday choices that we take for granted. They may not have money. They may be anxious, afraid, nervous and even living in fear as a result of threats made to them or their families.

There is no single sign that determines whether an individual, or a group of people, is in the process of being exploited. Instead it’s been described as a general feeling that “things aren’t quite right”.

And there are many types and forms of exploitation that victims could be subject to. For more information about the different "typologies" of modern slavery found in the UK and what to look out for, click on the link on the right.

If you suspect that people are being exploited or are in some way the victim of modern slavery, contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

If you believe someone is at immediate risk of being harmed or is in the process of being trafficked for the purposes of exploitation, call the police on 999.

Modern slavery – signs and indicators

Physical Appearance

Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, anxious/ agitated or appear withdrawn. They may have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.


Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control or influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.

Poor living conditions

Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and / or living and working at the same address.

Restricted freedom of movement

Victims may have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel and identification documents retained, e.g. passports .

Unusual travel times

Victims may be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.

Reluctant to seek help

Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcement agencies for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

Looking out for locations where exploitation may be taking place

Overcrowded and poor accommodation: Victims can be found living in poor housing conditions with multiple individuals living in one room. Sanitary, heating, lighting and washing facilities may be poor or non-existent. Windows may be boarded or curtains always drawn. Accommodation may be at or near the location where the exploitation is taking place, sometimes also in temporary facilities like a caravan, container or agricultural buildings.

Comings and goings - and at unusual time of the day: Locations where exploitation is taking place or where victims may be living can be indicated by frequent comings and goings; or by the regular collection and drop off of groups of people and very early in the morning/and or very late at night.

Unregulated business premises and cash-only transactions: Businesses that are potentially exploiting workers may be indicated by premises that appear unregulated, unprofessional and are not well organised. Prices may be exceptionally low for the services offered. Businesses that only accept cash in hand payments for services, where there is no receipt issued and where payments are handled by a single person may also be potentially exploiting their workers.

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About Us

This is the website of the NPCC Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime (MSOIC) Unit.  We work to support police officers, police staff and law enforcement partners to lead the fight against modern slavery,  human trafficking and OIC. 

Our aim is to help to deliver a consistent response to protecting victims and targeting offenders - and to work with partners to ultimately help prevent exploitation from having a place in our society.

Contact Us

You can contact the NPCC Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Unit by email at Modern Slavery

Alternatively colleagues in UK law enforcement can join the Policing Slavery and Human Trafficking Group on Knowledge Hub.