Think You’re Being Followed? A Few Tips to Protect Yourself
Posted by Writing PIs on December 11, 2010
We just got a call from someone who’s worried he’s being followed, and he asked us what he can do to protect himself. He lives several thousand miles away, so we don’t know the region personally, but the tips we offered (below) are generally useful for anyone, anywhere.
Call 911 if you’re in immediate danger. Explain that you’re being followed, your location, and any observed facts about that individual (a description of the person and/or vehicle, a license plate number). If you’re in an isolated region on foot, get to a public place (such as a store or gas station) where there are other people. If you’re in your car, drive directly to a local police station.
Call your local police. If you’re concerned someone’s surveiling your home, request that a unit patrol your residence. Again, provide facts about the individual (description, vehicle, license plate number).
Look for attachments under your vehicle. GPS devices are sold everywhere, and can be purchased by anyone, so if you’re concerned someone is trying to track your comings and goings, check underneath and around your vehicle for a GPS device. Real-time GPS devices (meaning their antennas pick up satellite signals) are typically attached by a magnet to the periphery of a vehicle, so check metal surfaces in/around mufflers, rear-mount spare tires, gas tank, and underneath the trunk. If you find a GPS device, call the police. Do not take it apart or otherwise disturb it.
Take your trash to the dump. If you think someone is trying to obtain personal information about you, don’t provide easy access to your trash. Even if you shred your paper trash, there might still be discarded items a person can use to find out more about you (medicine bottles with personal information on the label, shipping boxes with information on its labels and stamps). Instead of dumping your trash in your trash container and leaving it for pick-up, take it to the city dump.
Practice common sense. A few common sense tips: Always carry your cell phone with you, don’t go out alone at night, lock your vehicle when you exit it, park in well-lighted areas, keep lights on outside your home, be aware of your surroundings.
Consider obtaining a restraining order. If you’re aware who’s following you, and their activities are threatening/scaring you, try to document their activities (for example, videotape their car parked in your neighborhood or as it’s following you while you’re driving). Talk to your neighbors and ask if they’ve noticed unwanted surveillance of your home (be sure to document your neighbors’ names and addresses as witnesses if you go to court). Ask your neighbors if they’ve noticed unfamiliar people around your property (and ask for descriptions of those people and their vehicles). After you’ve gathered documentation, visit your local country court or attorney to learn the steps for obtaining a restraining order.
Hire a private investigator. Due to resource constraints, law enforcement can’t provide twenty-hour security. If you’re concerned someone’s repeatedly following and/or surveilling you, consider hiring a private investigator. Investigators have the expertise and tools to document suspicious activities and educate you on counter-surveillance methods. Contact your state professional private investigator association for a qualified PI (a list of these state associations can be found at PIMagazine.com).