Know the signs of human trafficking, because you could spot someone who needs help

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - One way to stop human trafficking is to watch for it. You can't watch for it if you don't know what you're looking for. That's why the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force wants everyone to know the signs of this crime, because it has impacted our area.

"It is a problem," Pat McCay with the North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force said. "If you have one child being trafficked, it's a problem."

Human trafficking is here and it's beginning in a place your child has access to: the internet.

"They'll go into a chat room thinking they're chatting, or talking to a 15-year-old boy if it's a 13-year-old girl, let's say, and you don't know what's on the other side of that computer," McCay explained. "There's also sex ads on Backpage.com. There's also Craigslist -- there's a dark side to Craigslist."

Away from the computer screen, the task force said traffickers prey on vulnerable children.

"They can be overweight, they don't think they're pretty," McCay said.

When you're out, take notice of the children around you.

"She could be very overly dressed for her age, in other words more provocatively," McCay said.

The North Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force also warns of children who have poor health, anxious demeanor and even tattoos.

"Sometimes there are tattoos that traffickers put on these children to identify them as their property," McCay said. "It may not be a bar code, it could be an animal, it could be a name, it could be a dollar sign."

Here are other "red flags" of human trafficking victims:

  • Inability to make eye contact
  • Cannot or will not speak to you alone
  • Has heightened sense of fear
  • Lying about age or false ID
  • Chronic runaway/homeless youth

The task force says don't hesitate to make a call -- it could save a life. But, leave it to authorities from there.

"Don't try to rescue that child yourself -- it's very, very dangerous," McCay warned.

Here is a list of numbers you can call if you suspect someone is being trafficked:

  • National Human Trafficking Resource Center HOTLINE: 1(888) 373-7888
  • The WellHouse HOTLINE: 1(800)991-0948
  • Huntsville Police: (256) 722-7100
  • Madison Police: (256) 772-5689