Prevention of trafficking in human beings

How can I protect myself?

How can I recognise fraudsters when I am looking for a job abroad?

  • The job ad gives only an e-mail or a telephone number
  • The intermediary company wants you to pay for document processing or a declaration
  • The company is not on the list of intermediaries registered at the Employment Agency
  • You are not given an address or contact details for the employer abroad
  • You are not given a work contract or it is in a foreign language
  • You are not given a job description
  • You are not provided with reporting documents for fees paid to institutions and others
  • They insist on taking your original identity documents
  • The terms of your accommodation are not confirmed by the employer or the intermediary

ATTENTION! Very often the fraudsters may turn out to be people you know and trust.

How can I make sure I will not fall into a labour exploitation scheme?

  • Check whether the intermediary company is legal and whether it is licenced by the Employment Agency at
  • Check the company or the employer you are going to. Do not rely on a friend’s “promise” or “recommendation”.
  • Do not leave if you have not signed a contract with the employer in Bulgarian (or another language you understand) which describes all terms of work, including payment, working hours, living conditions and others. You need to keep a copy of the contracts.
  • Become acquainted with the labour law and the regime of residence and work of Bulgarian citizens in the country you are going to. You can do this by contacting the Labour and Social Matters Offices at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy
  • Do not sign a Power of Attorney allowing your child to travel if you do not know where the child is going to, especially if you have doubts about the person the child will travel with, even if that person is a relative or kin.

ATTENTION! The easiest way to get information for free is at 0800 1 8676.

What are my rights in the EU?

  • After Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union in 2007, all Bulgarian citizens have the right to move freely, to reside and to work in the Member States of the EU and the European Economic Area.
  • Every citizen of an EU Member State is recognised automatically as an EU citizen.
  • The restrictions for Bulgarian citizens on the labour market in EU Member States were removed on 1 January 2014.
  • Every Bulgarian citizen can benefit fully from the right to free movement of workers accorded by the EU to its citizens. The labour markets in all Member States are accessible and open to all Bulgarians.

As an EU citizen, you have the following rights:

  • To move freely and live on the territory of the EU;
  • To seek a job in another EU Member State and to work there with no need for a work permit;
  • To rely on equality with the other EU citizens in the access to the labour market, payment, working conditions and any other social and tax advantages;
  • To use protection from the diplomatic and consular authorities of any EU Member State.

Legal work in the EU is a guarantee that your rights will be respected and that you will receive payment, protection and treatment as an EU citizen.

ATTENTION! Illegal work carries the risk of trafficking in human beings and exploitation.

How can I protect myself against sexual exploitation?

  • Become familiar with how traffickers work and be careful.
  • Never ignore your intuition telling you that what is happening to you is wrong.
  • Do not allow abuse and violence against yourself. If it happens, seek help immediately.
  • Do not rely for the logistics of a trip on someone else completely. Be informed about all details.
  • Do not leave for abroad at any cost, without being sure that you are going to a safe place. Check the information you have been given in several sources!
  • Become familiar in advance and in detail with the work you will be doing and with the conditions of living and work.
  • Do not leave if you have not concluded a contract in advance.
  • Hide a spare phone in your luggage.
  • Do not entrust your identity documents to anyone regardless of what you are being told.
  • Tell your relatives where you are going, leave contact details and do not sever your connections with them.
  • Do not hesitate to seek help abroad.
  • Do not sign a Power of Attorney allowing your child to travel if you do not know where the child is going to, especially if you have doubts about the person the child will travel with, even if that person is a relative or kin.
  • Remember at least these important phone numbers:
    • National Commission for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings: +359 2 807 80 50
    • National Hotline for Trafficking: 0800 20100
    • Telephone for victims of trafficking: +359 2 981 76 86 | 0800 1 8676
How do traffickers work?

Traffickers promise work abroad, worthy payment and a good life. If is about working in prostitution, they promise safety and excellent conditions. Most often they establish a direct contact with the victim or the victim’s family members posing as a future employer who promises a good job and opportunities for a good income. Victims are ever more often recruited on the internet. As regards women, traffickers win their trust through an emotional connection and promises of a better life and financial stability, they distance women from their relatives and, ultimately, force them to prostitute. Men are drawn in with the promise of a very well paid job which will resolve all their financial problems and will help them support their family in the long term.
Children become victims most often because the traffickers have managed to convince their parents that they will provide them with a better life than the one they have in Bulgaria.
The most frequent methods traffickers use to force a victim to prostitute include:

  • Threats for the family and kin;
  • Restriction of the freedom of movement through constant surveillance or taking one’s identity documents;
  • Instilling fear of and distrust in the authorities because the victims commits different violations, for example prostitution, stealing, using and selling drugs;
  • Tying the victims through a financial debt to be paid to the trafficker;
  • Isolation and dependency, especially if the victims do not speak the language of the country where they are located;
  • Physical and sexual violence and threats of violence, extortion;
  • Creating a drug addiction;
  • Creating an emotional dependency (through the loverboy method).
How do traffickers involve children?

Over the past years, traffickers have used ever more often the internet and social media – the easiest, the fastest and relatively anonymous and safe way for them to involve youth and children in trafficking in human beings. They do it via fake accounts which they use to attract children and teenagers in online acquaintances and innocent conversations. Children aged 10 to 14 are especially vulnerable on the internet because they do not know the risks on the internet while the traffickers pose as their peers building a whole legend for themselves quickly and easily. Conversations with unknown people on the internet also pose a risk to older children, aged 15+, because they believe that they are grown up and experienced and nothing bad could happen to them. They are also more open to actual meetings with people they have met on the internet.

Traffickers successfully manage to make children feel that they are understood, liked, accepted as they are, even loved. They easily use the loverboy method online – a method of involvement based on love relations and a consciously created emotional dependence. After making the online acquaintance, they very quickly switch to conversations on sex topics with the child. Only within a week of online conversations when the trafficker has won their trust, children may turn out to be likely, including for the experiment of it, to send their nude photos and videos without thinking about the risk they are exposing themselves to. They sometimes even believe that they are in sincere love relations with someone they have only met online. Studies show that children are times more likely to send nude photos (sexting), to get naked on camera in a video conversation rather than do it live, before a person they do not know or someone they know a little. The fact that they do it online, from their room at home, gives them the deceiving feeling that they are safe. They often learn in the worst possible way that, once uploaded, a photo or a video begins their own life which they are unable to control and because of which they become dependent.

What is a loverboy?

Loverboy is the most frequent method of involving young women in trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The loverboy is usually a handsome or charming man who is, in reality, a pimp or a trafficker. He follows a tested model: he begins to entice the young woman with courtship, compliments, gifts, restaurants, sometimes drugs, until she falls in love with him. When she is in love and fully under his influence, he begins slowly to force her to commit petty crime or sexual “services” in the name of love. Gradually, without understanding how, the woman falls into the trap of trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Loverboy carefully chooses and researches the victim in order to be able to fulfil her dreams and offer her a solution to her problems. He creates the illusion of a romantic intimate relationship. In reality, it is about
emotional dependency, psychological and physical violence.

How can I protect myself against being involved in trafficking via the internet?

Over the past years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers have been actively using the loverboy method via the internet and manipulating their victims through online threats and blackmail. In social media, loverboys can process several victims at the same time and they easily gather information about them. Nowadays traffickers use social media as virtual catalogues: they identify their victims there, involve them in exploitation via force and online sexual blackmailing, the so called grooming and sextortion. Traffickers use the enormous quantity of information about the victims’ lives such as education, family relations, economic status, place of residence, network of friends, etc. Even the dreams, desires and problems of the potential victims are published in public posts and supported with photos and videos and, by using them, the traffickers find an easy way to their victims. In many cases, especially when children are involved in online sexual exploitation, the criminals use fake accounts and sexting, they post fake job ads and different offers in job portals the visitors trust, including sponsored posts with attractive opportunities in social media. Criminal networks often create whole websites of fake recruitment agencies and advertise them on social media making them easily accessible to a much larger number of people, including people who are not interested in working abroad.

  • Be careful about the kind of photos you post and the personal information you upload on social media. Traffickers use all online channels and social networks you use!
  • Do not communicate with strangers on the network, even if you see that they are friends of your friends.
  • Protect your accounts with strong passwords and change them every 3 months.
  • Do not use the same password for your e-mail and all of your social media.
  • Do not post personal information (including personal data) such as place of residence, place of work, favourite places/diners/restaurants, mobile phone, e-mail, etc. in your social accounts.
  • If you get into sexting (online flirting), especially with a stranger, never send your nude photos or videos.
  • Do not agree, under any pretence, to get undressed, to strip tease, to perform erotic and sexual actions in an online video conversation, especially with a stranger! Be sure that they will record you and then blackmail you with the video for money or for more photos and videos.
If something bad happens to you online, you seek help immediately at 0800 1 8676 or at the Advisory Online Safety Hotline 124 123.