Human Trafficking in Traveling Sales Crews

In 2013, the NHTRC handled 109 cases of potential human trafficking involving sales crews. 14 of these cases involved crisis situations in which the victims required immediate assistance. Based on NHTRC hotline data, cases of labor trafficking within traveling sales crews involve higher percentages of U.S. citizen victims than we are seeing in other labor trafficking industries. Additionally, in 2013, sales crews involved an almost equal number of males and females, which is also unique as compared with most other forms of labor trafficking.

Traveling sales crews typically recruit young men and young women, primarily U.S. citizens, some under the age of 18, who are looking for work and the ability to travel. Victims often have to meet daily sales quotas in order to receive a small allowance, and expenses for food and shelter are deducted from this allowance. These victims often experience physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a means of control.

Recently, a crew member named Rob* reached out for assistance after being physically assaulted by his manager.

After speaking with an operator at the National Runaway Safeline, Rob, a 19-year-old male who had just been physically assaulted by his manager, was conferenced into the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (NHTRC). The young man explained that he joined a traveling sales crew after seeing a Craigslist advertisement for a lucrative job. The crew sold magazine subscriptions and walked from door to door from 7am until 10pm every day. When the crew members complained or did not meet their daily quotas, their manager prohibited them from eating or made them sleep on the street instead of in the hotel. The NHTRC Call Specialist referred the situation to a nearby service provider who worked with Rob to coordinate shelter and transportation. In addition, the service provider offered to do outreach to the remaining crew members. The service provider helped four other young men leave the sales crew and connected with law enforcement agents who ultimately arrested the manager. Within three days, all five victims purchased bus tickets and returned to their hometowns.

The NTRC developed a webinar entitled Human Trafficking & Traveling Sales Crews to help law enforcement, service providers, and communities gain a better understanding of what traveling sales crews are, how they operate, and what risk factors make traveling sales crew members vulnerable to exploitation and labor trafficking. The webinar, along with several other online training tools, can be found on our website.

*Vignettes are representative of the types of calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline and are meant for informational purposes only. Names, locations, and other identifying information have been changed and/or omitted to preserve the confidentiality of the people we serve.


The following content was drawn from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center monthly newsletter. For more information, please call the NHTRC at 1-888-373-7888, text the short code BeFree (233733), or visit the NHTRC at

This publication was made possible in part through Grant Number 90ZV0102 from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, Office of Refugee Resettlement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, Office of Refugee Resettlement, or HHS.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)
24 Hour National Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
Text the short code BeFree (233733)

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