Can You Tell If You Are Being Followed

  • June 22, 2024
  • 11 min read

So how can you tell if you’re being followed by a private investigator or how can you tell if you’re being monitored electronically by somebody or a private investigator? In many cases—divorce, probate, lawsuit, civil—one party wants to monitor the activity or the whereabouts or the movements of another party. Many times, this is done by a private investigator. Some people try to do it themselves, but that makes it easier to spot. Even with a private investigator, it’s actually something that can be detected with a few basic observations. Let’s take a look at those. We’ll talk about physical surveillance first and then electronic monitoring second.

Physical Surveillance
If you think you’re being followed or somebody’s watching your activities, it’s relatively simple to do counter-surveillance and to flush that out. It’s easier to do if you have another person that can help you with this because they can kind of shadow you. But even if you can’t get another person to help you out, there’s some clues that will indicate you being followed. Most surveillance is done by one person or maybe two at the most. Only in the most complex high-level government agency type surveillance is going to be five or six people. The reason that’s important is because if it’s one or two people, they can’t rotate to have a different person, which means one or more of the same people is going to be behind you or following you or near you. That’s going to be easy to detect.

Establishing a Baseline
So what do you do? First, get a baseline. Let’s say you’re walking down a street or you’re driving in your car or you’re moving in some fashion. The first thing you do is find a way to stop where it’s going to be easy to see your surroundings. Now, you don’t want to stop, like, look around obviously staring at each person. What you want to do is stop in a way that looks like you’re doing something—maybe checking your phone, maybe reading a paper, maybe looking at a book, maybe looking at a map. Do something where you can be stationary for some period of time but where you’re able to covertly see your surroundings. An ideal scenario would be to have a reflective window in front of you where you can see behind you without having to look behind you.

Observation and Note-Taking
So whatever you do, make a note of the people and vehicles that are in your vicinity. Ideally, you would do this in a place where there’s not a thousand people, right? You’re not stopping on a street corner where there’s thousands of people or in a parking lot where there’s thousands of cars. Do it in a place where you can limit, reduce the number of subjects around you, targets around you, and make a note of them. Now, if you use your technique of maybe writing something in a book, you can literally write down “guy with red shirt,” “lady with green hat,” “blue truck,” whatever it is. You write down the subjects that you see. If you think of the right premise to do this, you can come up with a scenario where you can make a note of all these people. Spend a minute or two doing it—don’t spend too long—and then start driving, start walking, whatever it is you’re doing.

Changing Directions and Locations
If you’re in a mall, you could stop at the food court, get something to eat, and write something down in a book. Then as you’re walking, take the opportunity to notice if any of the people or cars that were in your first snapshot are still with you. Some people might just randomly be going the same place you are; they might randomly be going in the same direction you are. For that reason, you want to change directions. You want to make a few stops. Maybe if you’re going to change direction, stop somewhere first so it doesn’t look like it’s out of character. For example, if you’re driving down the street straight and then all of a sudden you take a left and another left, it’s like a U-turn. It doesn’t make any sense that you would go backwards. But if you stop somewhere, look like that was a place that was out of your way, maybe go into a store, buy something in a bag so they don’t know what it is, okay, they stopped at this store on purpose, now they’re going back somewhere else.

Noting Repeated Observations
Or if you’re in a shopping mall, you’re not going to do loops around the mall—that’s going to seem weird. But if you stop at a store, get something, and then turn, that’s going to be less suspicious. As you’re going, always look to see are any of the people, cars, individuals the same as your first snapshot. If they are, make a note of that. Fortunately, you won’t have to remember too many of those. If you started out with the snapshot of 15 or 20, if the people or cars that are similar are two or three, now you only have to remember two or three—guy with red shirt, lady with green hat, blue truck. Ten minutes later, you’re in a different place, look to see if they’re still there.

Entering and Exiting Stores
A really good way to do it is to go into a store and then come back out. Because when you come back out, you’re going to be facing your followers, right? You don’t want to turn around and look over your shoulder that often because that may indicate to the following party that you’re on to them, that you’re paying attention. You want to make it look like you’re not paying attention. You want to make it look like you’re oblivious to your surroundings. If it’s important for the surveillance and they think they might be detected, they might bail on the surveillance, they might give up on it. Which you don’t want them to do. If they’re surveilling you and you want to either misdirect them to do something different or you want to catch them, you don’t want to be suspicious.

Safety Precautions
The other thing you don’t want to do is go home because you’re not sure if the person or people following you know where you live. So you don’t want to go home. If you ever feel like your personal safety is at risk, go to a police station, go to the police department, go to the fire department, right? Go to some very public place where you’re in the middle of a lot of people. Worst case scenario, if your physical safety is in danger. And then after you’ve observed people for some period of time, make a note of who they are. Maybe try to get a license plate, maybe try to get a better description of who they are, what time they were at a certain place.

Recording Observations
If anything gets really bad, if you know that this car was at this corner of Main Street at 2:22 p.m., if there’s ever any legal issues that come up, you can flag that and they can do cell phone tracking for whoever was there at that time. So that’s some basics on surveillance.

Electronic Surveillance
What about electronic surveillance? Are you being followed online? Is somebody tracking your email? Is somebody tracking your text messages? Is somebody monitoring your phone calls? The first thing you want to do for that is to make sure that your cell phone, your mobile device is not compromised. If there are any apps installed on your phone that are transmitting information, you can detect this by looking at your Bluetooth or your Wi-Fi activity. You can go in to see if your Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are sending out signals unbeknownst to you to parties that are not part of your approved vendor list. For example, you might have notifications from Facebook, you might have updates from maybe your email—those are acceptable. But if you have some app that’s pinging your information or sending out information about your location or your activity, you might want to know that. You can check that on your phone. If you need more information on that, you can click the link below. We have consulting or digital forensics that might help you with that.

Sending Out False Signals
The other thing you want to do is to send out a false notification or signal to see if anybody acts on it. For example, if somebody’s tracking your location or tracking your cell phone and you want to see if they’re monitoring your emails or your text messages, send out an email that’s something very significant that somebody could act on. For example, text your friend or your relative, “I’m going to be at this store at 2:00 on Friday,” or “I am going to go to the mailbox at this time,” “I’m going to call so and so,” and see if, based on that, somebody is taking action. See if somebody’s following you on that date. See if somebody calls you at that time. See if somebody monitors your purchase.

Testing Electronic Surveillance
Electronic surveillance is extremely common. If you’re involved with some court case, email your attorney something that’s not real. “Hey, I’m planning on filing this motion next week.” See if the other side takes any action based on that. There’s a very good example of this that comes from a battle that was fought in World War II, the Battle of Midway. The United States Navy suspected that the Japanese Navy was going to attack Midway Islands. They suspected it, and they had some codebreakers that were trying to crack the Japanese code about what they were saying amongst themselves. So what they did was they sent a fake message that said Midway Island was going to be out of water, their water machine was broken, and they weren’t going to have any water. They wanted to see if the Japanese picked up on that and if they were correct on their codebreaking. Sure enough, within a few days, they had a message that was coded—a Japanese message that was coded—that said Midway Island’s water was broken. The fact that they were able to decode that meant that their decoding was correct.

Verifying Suspicious Activity
So if you send out a message that you can see if somebody takes action on or somebody communicates about, or if you say something in an email and then somebody who shouldn’t know that information says, “Hey, by the way, I heard this,” right? Maybe you suspect a spouse or a relative is monitoring your emails. If you say something dramatic like, “I’m pregnant,” or “I have cancer,” or something very dramatic, and then that person acts differently, you know that they’ve picked up on the bait. So those are some subrosa, covert ways you can detect it. If you really want to dive deep and have some data extraction in digital forensics on your phone, you can do that.

Importance of Protecting Private Communications
It’s very important if you’re involved with any type of significant activity in your life—a litigation, a divorce, a probate case—you make sure that your internal private thoughts and communications are not being monitored because that could give the other side an advantage in your case and defeat the strength of your case or your objective or just put you at risk financially or physically.

Conclusion and Additional Resources
Thank you for watching another episode of Actual Human Advisory on Described TV. Remember, we have live one-on-one consultation appointments available at actualhuman.com, where you can book a one-on-one undivided attention live call with a licensed investigator, a licensed insurance broker, a licensed mortgage broker, real estate broker. I’m also a certified real estate title examiner, a certified civil court mediator, along with having developed and started over 15 businesses, several of which were sold for millions of dollars. So if you do have questions in any of those categories, you can arrange a one-on-one live video consultation. Use the link below, and we’ll see you on the next video.

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