Financial Protection for Survivors of Human Trafficking

10/27/2022 10:46 AM By Kayla Florence

Human trafficking runs rampant in the United States and has severely changed the lives of innumerable victims, survivors, and families. While many are conscious of the physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse those who are trafficked face, financial abuse is most times disregarded, though it is a recurring tactic used by traffickers to further exploit victims.  

Debt bondage takes place when people are compelled to provide labor to pay off a debt. Human traffickers execute this by engaging in harmful behaviors that greatly affect the victims’ financial statuses to the point they are unable to get a job, rent a home, or anything else to diminish their reliance on the abuser. It is suspected that traffickers exert financial abuse not only to earn money but to maintain a method of control. Dr. Marian Hatcher, cofounder of ALIVE (Alliance of Leadership & Innovation for Victims of Exploitation) stated in a testimony to the court, “In addition to exploiting their victims through commercial sex or forced labor, traffickers- particularly in the context of domestic trafficking- may also exploit their victims’ credit histories by using their social security numbers to take out loans and make large purchases, such as vehicles, intending not to pay, thereby destroying their victims’ credit histories in the process.”

In December of 2021, President Biden signed the Debt Bondage Repair Act preventing consumer reporting agencies from reporting unfavorable details from any period the survivor was being trafficked. They are required to redact adverse information to defend the victim and assist in eliminating the lasting effects. With this Act in place, victims of human trafficking have ensured the opportunity to regain control of their lives without the burden of accumulating debt. 

While many use strong credit history to gauge one’s trustworthiness, self-control, and responsible decision-making, there are considerable risks connected with the use of credit reports in the hiring process: 

  • Frequently inaccurate
  • Unsubstantiated indicator of job performance/trustworthiness
  • Creates an inequitable dilemma for unemployed job applicants, therefore hinders opportunity for economic recovery
  • Numerous studies have documented lower credit scores for African Americans and Latinos, hence disproportionately impacting minority applicants
  • Various circumstances outside of one's control can result in their negative credit histories, e.g., layoff, divorce, identity theft, or medical bills