Human Trafficking And Possible Red Flags

Blog / Human Trafficking And Possible Red Flags

In recent years, a large increase has been observed in the number of people with irregular immigrant status due to regional armed conflicts and areas under the control of terrorist organizations. It was stated by the International Labor Organization that human trafficking is the "most profitable" method of obtaining crime income. Nearly 150 billion USD is earned from this crime every year.

Especially in risky countries, considering its geopolitical situation, it is clear that it is used as a center for human trafficking. In this context, professionals who are working in the field of financial crimes and financial institutions have played important roles as well as security forces.

According to the 2016 data, it is stated that 40.3 million people can be considered modern slaves; 24.9 million of them are forced to work, and 15.4 million are forced to marry. Approximately 5 out of every 1000 people worldwide are victims of modern slavery. Considering the regional distribution of the profit obtained from forced labor, the Asia-Pacific Region takes the lead, followed by developed economies and the European Union.

When looking at the sectoral distribution of per capita income concerning forced labor, "sexual abuse" is the leader.

Human trafficking has three main objectives:

  • Trafficking in human beings for forced labor
  • Sex Worker
  • Organ trade

There are different methods of laundering the proceeds of crime from each of these three crimes. Before moving on to these methods, it is necessary to explain the differences between the terms "human trafficking" and "human smuggling," which are often used interchangeably.

Human Trafficking Versus Human Smuggling

Although the terms human trafficking and human smuggling are used interchangeably, there are three main differences between human trafficking and human smuggling.

  • Consent: The smuggling of migrants - while often undertaken in dangerous or degrading conditions - involves migrants who have consented to their smuggling. Victims of human trafficking, on the other hand, have either never consented or, if they initially consented, that consent has been rendered meaningless by the coercive, deceptive, or abusive actions of the traffickers.
  • Exploitation: Smuggling ends with the arrival of the migrants at their destination, whereas trafficking involves the ongoing exploitation of the victims in some manner to generate illicit profits for the traffickers.
  • Trans-nationality: Smuggling is always transnational, whereas trafficking need not be. Trafficking can occur regardless of whether victims are taken to another country or subjected to human trafficking in the same country where they reside, even if no movement has taken place.

In the following, we will try to explain how the money movements related to human trafficking can be determined.

Red Flags For Human Trafficking

1. Red Flags From Victim's Perspective

  • If there are constant taxi or transportation payments
  • ATM transactions in the bank account or spending a very short period in various cities of the country
  • Hotel spending occurs
  • If there is continuous shopping from pharmacies.
  • If there are transfers from 3rd Persons to the account and these are sent to one person.

2. Red Flags for the Trafficker

  • If the account is consistently credited with the inconsistent financial profile
  • There is more than one e-mail address, telephone number, or residence address as the contact information.
  • If the e-mail addresses registered in the contact address are on the internet escort sites.
  • If there is a recurring withdrawal, credit card payment, or money transfer from the account.
  • Following the victim's transfer movements to detect money laundering due to human trafficking will increase detection capability. Profiling the victim's transfers or transactions is an excellent first step in determining human trafficking. Checking the parties to the victim's transactions in detail will help identify human traffickers.

3. Red Flags for Forced Labor

As with human trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, there are many types of trafficking for forced labor. Most forms of forced labor involve a type of initial recruitment of the victim. This is usually under the pretext of a better job abroad for a higher fee. In cases where the victim is forced to work in legal employment, the employer, who is generally unaware that they are employing trafficked persons, can pay to the bank accounts of traffickers or victims.

Obliged parties, especially financial institutions, should carefully monitor the transactions that individuals working in various jobs transfer to a single person's account or when this amount is withdrawn or paid to a single person's account.

Accordingly, the red-flagged operations regarding forced labor;

  • Cash withdrawal from the accounts of people who live at the same address and/or have no kinship ties
  • Transactions in the accounts of foreign nationals with the same phone number
  • Transactions in the accounts of foreign nationals with the same e-mail address
  • ATM usage of especially foreign customers

The red flag in line with accounts in financial institutions, in particular, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan nationals accounts, the movement of persons should be carefully monitored.

4. Red Flags for Organ Trade

Organ trafficking and human trafficking are completely different crimes to get an organ. While the object of the crime is an organ in the organ trade, the object of human trafficking is a human. In other words, organ trafficking may not be directly related to human trafficking.

The financial flow of human trafficking crime to ensure organ trafficking is achieved by using the two potential methods below:

  1. Financing the necessary infrastructure to carry out the crime.
  2. Paying various people to commit the crime.

The actors in the financial flow listed above are as follows:

  • Agents (organizers, coordinators, kidney hunters, etc.)
  • Healthcare Professionals (surgeons, nurses, anesthetists, etc.)
  • Private or Public Institutions (health centers, hospitals, laboratories, travel agencies, and their employees)
  • Victims

Although it is difficult for banks to detect financial transactions related to organ trafficking, it is not impossible when there are some indicators. These indicators include the following red flag states, and they may be harmless on their own, but they can potentially display suspicious behavior when they all come together.

  • Transfer fees are sent to companies or individuals in high-risk areas with various medical explanations. (Medical, surgery, etc.)
  • Transfers between foundations or associations and medical tourism companies.
  • A person who is apparently ill makes transfers to charities or invests in a high amount of cash.
  • Transferring from medical tourism companies to people/companies in high-risk jurisdictions.

The Role of Financial Institutions in Proper AML Configuration and Human Trafficking


Human trafficking, in particular, is, first and foremost, a violation of human rights. For this reason, it is an important problem to deal with in this century. We can collect the negative effects of human trafficking under the following headings:

  • Physical and moral breakdown: As a result of pressure, abuse, and intimidation, victims suffer a moral breakdown, drugs, etc., the habit of using substances like aids, etc. They are caught with various infectious diseases such as causing them to spread, problems occur as a result of unwanted pregnancies, the psychological conditions of the victims deteriorate due to the constant psychological pressure exerted by human traffickers who want to keep the victims under control, and their tendency to commit crimes increases due to the negativities they experience.
  • Disruption of the family: As a result, the deterioration in the relations between families, the decrease of solidarity, and the emergence of potential people as easy-to-reach targets for human traffickers may cause a collapse in society, and the moral development of children is negatively affected by this social collapse.
  • Increasing unemployment rate: Due to the cheap and illegal employment of workers, unemployment of trained personnel comes to the agenda, and poor quality production increases.
  • Using crime revenues in illegal works: Crime organizations become stronger and stronger using the earned income,
  • Use against the country: People sent abroad by various terrorist organizations or who fled abroad for this purpose damage the country's reputation by making false and negative statements against the country for acceptance in the countries they visit.

Combating crime and criminals is difficult due to reasons such as the victims' reluctance to complain to the competent authorities, their acceptance of their situation, their freedom to be restricted, and they do not have information about where to complain because the victims themselves are stuck in some respects.

As a result, human trafficking is not a situation that can only be prevented by the efforts of a country or an institution. With this global problem that affects the whole world, however:

  • By increasing international cooperation.
  • Raising awareness of law enforcement and implementing institutions on the subject.
  • It can be tackled by increasing the awareness of financial institutions on the subject. 

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