Exploring the Depths of Global Human Trafficking

Written by Matt Trost, CFE, Certified Risk Advisor , Erica Genevieve Codner, and Christopher Bagnall, members of The Knoble Network.

As this is being written, the Super Bowl is less than two weeks away. People from all over will be flocking to Las Vegas by the tens of thousands to see the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs.  The Chiefs will be looking to win their second straight Lombardi Trophy, while a win for the 49ers would give the team its first Super Bowl since 1995, back when Steve Young was their quarterback.  Many of the people going to the game, and those just heading to Vegas to watch the game at one of the many venues on the strip, will probably be placing wagers and trying to make some cash. The Nevada Independent reported that in 2023 the amount of gambling revenue brought in by casinos on the Las Vegas Strip hit a record total of nearly $8.9 billion.  That seems like a very hefty number for dollars earned. Imagine being a part of an industry that makes 26.5 times that amount.  Welcome to the business of Human Trafficking.

There are going to be a lot of hard hits in the big game. How about these hard-hitting facts? Disclaimer-the following is not for the faint of heart but needs to be shared for awareness and help in fighting this issue.

  • The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that there are currently 27.6 million victims of human trafficking around the world. This translates into 3.5 people for every thousand people in the world.
  • 17.4 million are victims of labor trafficking in private industry. Agriculture, landscaping, construction, in home as nannies or domestic workers, elder care, massage parlors.  Essentially jobs with low pay and few legal protections.
  • 6.3 million are victims of s*x trafficking. This can range from p*********y, illicit massage parlors, hotel/motel based, online ads, escorts, strip clubs, truck stops.
  • 3.9 million are victims of state-imposed forced labor.
  • According to the Counter Trafficking Data Collaborative (CTDC) 194 countries of exploitation.
  • Asia-most victims are trafficked for labor exploitation particularly into domestic work.
  • Africa-equal proportions male and female. More than half are children.
  • Europe-majority are adults, with a slightly higher proportion trafficked for labor than sexual exploitation.
  • Americas- 2/3 of victims experience sexual exploitation. Over 80% of victims are female, and almost a third are children.
  • 190 nationalities.
  • Women and girls are disproportionately affected by human trafficking, but 30% (approx. 12M worldwide) are men or boys.
  • These victims are less likely to be reported, especially in s*x trafficking situations.
  • Over 50% of identified girl victims are aged between 15 and 17, whereas about 40% of trafficked boys are under 12 years of age.

So why do traffickers do what they do at the detriment to all the victims?  That is the $236 billion question. The motive of traffickers, regardless of the type of human trafficking they are engaged in, is clear-MONEY!!! Traffickers utilize a myriad of options in the private sector.

  • Banks to deposit and launder earnings.
  • Planes, taxis and buses to transport their victims.
  • Booking of hotel rooms.
  • Social media for advertising services and trying to recruit.

Polaris Inc.claims that ‘Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit and at its core, human trafficking has two elements: power and profit.  They interpret profit primarily in financial terms and note that something of material value must be exchanged for an act to be considered as trafficking.

At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ aim to profit and the coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to exploit victims.  They prey on vulnerable people and those seeking to build brighter futures for themselves. Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.  Let that sink in for a minute or two. The place where humans are supposed to feel safest, in their own homes, isn’t always the case. Traffickers use the guise of seeking out people whose specific need they can fill or pretend to. Of the $236 billion made, almost $173 billion was generated in forced commercial sexual exploitation. All these profits gained are inherently illegal and the act itself should be considered a criminal offense.

The Super Bowl can be fun for lots of people, especially fans of the teams that are playing and NFL fans in general.  It can also be a place for traffickers to display and bring their wares. There is evidence that traffickers move victims into the Super Bowl locale to take advantage of the influx of partying visitors. Thankfully organizations out there are taking a stand. U.S. Bank went to work on developing a playbook to combat trafficking back in 2018 when Super Bowl LII was hosted at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Knoble created the Super Bowl Initiative back in 2022. Partnering with law enforcement agencies and asking financial institutions to leverage their capabilities to help detect human trafficking. They are back at it in 2024 based on the success of the previous year.

Why Fight:

Human trafficking remains a persistent problem and large events can provide an additional opportunity for traffickers. These events, bringing an influx of a diverse and transient population, combined with the chaos and anonymity inherent in large crowds, can provide traffickers with opportunities to exploit individuals. Fortunately, these events also bring a coordinated law enforcement focus with local, state, and federal agencies working together. Combining that law enforcement focus with our alliance of financial institutions provides an opportunity to make an impact in the fight against trafficking.

Join the alliance of human crime fighters who are making a difference. Learn more at TheKnoble.com.

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