A study by the University of Hull to mark Anti-Slavery Day – today – found 55 per cent of people did not know how to spot if someone was being held as a slave.
Additionally, one-third of people did not know slavery affects men and children as well as women.
The Home Office estimates around 1,300 people are trapped in slavery in the UK.
John Oldfield, the director of the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull, said there is still a “critical amount of work to be done” to increase public awareness about slavery.
“Modern day slavery often plays out in plain sight and can be difficult to detect, especially if people don”t know what signs to look for,” he said.
A victim of slavery may appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, show signs of physical or emotional abuse – such as being malnourished or scared – and be unwilling to interact with strangers.
A victim is likely to travel at unusual times, such as very early in the morning or very late at night; live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions and own no identification documents.
To draw awareness to the issue, the University of Hull is placing so-called human packaging – life-size boxes – at key locations throughout Hull city centre on Anti-Slavery Day as part of its #HiddenInPlainSight campaign.
The poll of 1,672 adults was carried out online by YouGov between 29 and 30 September 2016.