Combating Human Trafficking and the Underground Economy

Human trafficking is a $32 billion global industry. Unfortunately, the general misconception is that this only affects foreign-born immigrants, or this crime is limited to sexual exploitation. The sad reality is that human trafficking also has a major impact in California – to our businesses, communities, and economy. As one of the four top destinations in the United States, California is a hot spot for domestic and international human trafficking due to its large population and economy, international border, and air and seaports.

Trafficking includes involuntary servitude, debt bondage, slavery, or sex trade of individuals that are coerced or threatened into service. Examples of human trafficking may include domestic service, forced prostitution, servile marriage, criminal activity, and hotel/motel housekeeping. Forced labor often occurs in factories or sweatshops, farms, restaurants, construction, and other informal labor sectors.

In order to combat this modern-day form of slavery, departments and law enforcement rely on the tips from concerned citizens. Together we can make greater strides to punish these crimes and provide aid to the victims.

Report suspected crimes to the TRaCE Task Force online or by calling toll free 1-855-234-9949. You can make a difference – report it, don't ignore it!

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What are signs of human trafficking?

Human trafficking is often hidden in plain sight given California’s large diverse ethnic population. Concerted efforts are being made to combat this modern-day form of slavery and with tips from concerned citizens, we can make greater strides to punish these crimes and provide aid to the victims. Below are some of the indicators that an individual may be a victim of human trafficking. When a person:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts or is involuntarily in the commercial sex industry
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, earns only tips, and lacks healthcare
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours without compensation
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual mobility restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt to employer and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • Is afraid of his/her employer
  • Excessive or unusual security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded or bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
  • Claims to be just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address

If you see any of these or other indicators of possible human trafficking, be part of the solution and report your suspicions.

How can I report suspicious behavior related to human trafficking?

The California State Board of Equalization (SBOE), in partnership with other government state and federal agencies, is working to identify and investigate illegal activities related to the underground economy, of which human trafficking is a significant factor. The collaborative efforts of this recently established Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement (TRaCE) Task Force, has made significant strides in combatting California's underground economy. But with such a large problem, the Task Force needs the public’s help to identify suspected illegal activities.

You can support these efforts to deter human trafficking and make a difference by reporting suspected crimes to the TRaCE Task Force online or by calling toll free 1-855-234-9949. You can make a difference – report it, don't ignore it!

Frequently Asked Questions related to TRaCE Task Force

Can the person I am reporting on find out my identity?
No. All information you provide is treated as confidential unless compelled by law to do otherwise.

After I provide information to TRaCE, can I receive updates on the investigation?
No. Privacy and disclosure laws prohibit TRaCE from sharing information regardless of whether action is taken.

What happens to the information that I provide?
Any information that you provide will be evaluated, and if it is not within TRaCE's jurisdiction, it may be shared with the appropriate local, state, or federal agency.

If TRaCE uses the information for tax recovery, will I receive a reward?
No. TRaCE does not offer rewards for information.

How do I know if you received my online referral report?
If your online submission is successful, you will receive a reference number. Please keep the number or print the confirmation page as you will need to refer to this number if you want to provide additional information or documents any time after you submit your original report.

Can I report a crime and remain anonymous?
Yes. The TRaCE Task Force investigates all complaints, whether anonymous or not.


Additional Resources

List of California policies and laws related to human trafficking

  • AB 22 (Lieber), Chapter 240, Statutes of 2005 created California’s first anti-trafficking law which established the California Alliance to Combat Trafficking and Slavery Task Force. The Task Force offered recommendations in a 2007 report to the Governor, Attorney General, and the Legislature.
  • AB 764 (Swanson), Chapter 465, Statutes of 2011 allows an individual taxpayer to contribute a portion of their state tax return to the Child Victims of Human Trafficking Fund.
  • SB 657 (Steinberg), Chapter 556, Statutes of 2010 created the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which came into effect in 2010, mandates that certain companies disclose what steps they've taken, if any, to address human trafficking and forced labor in their supply chains. The law applies specifically to retailers and manufacturers doing business in California and having at least $100 million in gross annual revenue globally.

Information about the TRaCE program

SBOE Brochure: Don't Buy into California's Underground Economy

Multi-State Agency Brochure: Joint Enforcement Strike Force Brochure

Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

Attorney General's report: The State of Human Trafficking in California

Information related to signs of human trafficking

Board Member Fiona Ma Urges Businesses and Californians to Join Together Against Human Trafficking and the Underground Economy

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