I think most of us have experienced the feeling at some point or another that we are being watched or followed and it isn’t a nice feeling.
Most of the time it doesn’t come to anything and it is just our imagination overreacting. But what happens when those fears are correct?
If you believe that someone is following you, we have some practical tips that will help you to keep a level head and stay safe.
How do i Know if i’m Being Followed?
Before we start looking at what you should do if you are being followed, I think we should first look at how you know whether you are in fact being followed.
There are many things that you can look for including:
- Seeing the same person multiple times over the course of a day
- Travelers who get on and off public transportation with you
- Diners in restaurants who get up and leave after you without eating their food
- A jogger who is standing near you, stretching for what feels like too much time
- Gut feeling. It is safer to always trust your gut
If you get a gut feeling that something isn’t right, follow the steps below to see whether those feelings are correct or not.
- Use any mirrors or windows to watch people behind you.
- Make unexpected stops, go places you wouldn’t normally go, change your pace or your route. Are these people also making the same changes as you?
- Jump in a taxi and take it one block and get back out. Did someone do the same thing behind you?
- Walk your normal path, then make a show of “forgot my keys” and turn around and go back the other way. Did they also head back the other way? Doing this will also allow you to get a good look at the face of the guy you think is following you so you can give a description if needed to the police.
What to do if You’re Being Followed on Foot
As with all situations, remaining calm is essential. You can not think straight if you allow yourself to panic or let fear take over.
If you think you are being followed, don’t try to rush off straight away. Instead, slow down because it gives you time to think things through rationally.
Try stopping at the window of a store or stop to tie your shoe laces but always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you.
While doing this, use the time to gather your thoughts, do a little deep breathing, and take stock of what’s happening around you.
Be Alert and Pay Attention
When things are normal for us in our routines or habit, it can be easy to simply not pay attention. This is your normalcy bias kicking in but you need to control that.
Everyday we do things that we may have done hundreds, if not thousands of times before. We start to do these things on auto-pilot.
If you think someone’s stalking you, you need to make it a point to be extra observant. This is especially true if it is an ongoing issue.
Don’t walk with your head down in your phone but keep an eye out for things that seem out of place. Make note of any pedestrians that you pass, especially if someone pops up repeatedly.
Mix It Up
I have ended up walking the wrong way somewhere many times and have had to turn around and head back.
People do it all the time. But two different people making the wrong turn at the same time is highly unlikely.
If you think that someone’s following you, try a short detour. It might add a little more time to your journey but better that than putting yourself at risk.
Turn away from your destination, and then double back. If a potential stalker mimics your maneuver, your suspicions may be warranted. If this happens, head straight towards a public place or a police station.
Head For a Busy Area
Never go home if you suspect that you are being followed. Instead, head for a busy area such as a busy coffee shop. Crowds can help deter stalkers from continuing to follow you or approaching you, as there are too many witnesses around.
Get Your Phone Out
There are several apps that have been built specifically for personal safety, like bSafe or Circle of 6. Both of these apps offer a host of personal safety features but there are many more available that you can choose from that are suitable for your own needs. You can alert authorities with these apps if you’re in trouble, so they’re great tools to have on your phone.
Kitestring is another excellent mobile tool. Kitestring is an SMS-based service that gives you a simple way to set up automated check-ins, alerting a friend if you don’t respond. As there’s no app to download, it works with any SMS-enabled mobile phone.
Even without apps, you can still use your phone. Call a friend or family member, tell them where you are, and stay on the phone with them until you feel comfortable.
Call the Police
If none of the above has worked and you feel like you are in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to contact the police. Calling 999/911 or the non-emergency police dispatch line in your local area are always options, as it’s better to be safe than sorry. Never feel embarrased incase you have got it all wrong, it is about keeping yourself safe.
How to Avoid Being Attacked When Followed
If you are reading this expecting me to show you some self-defense moves, you are reading the wrong article. Here we are going to show you how to keep yourself safe.
If you believe you are being followed you must remain alert. If somebody is going to attack they will do so when you drop your guard, don’t give them that chance. Always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Do not look behind you but instead try to use windows and car mirrors to see behind you.
Are you Actually Being Followed?
You should never jump to conclusions, it may just be that the person behind you needs to also be walking that way. There are some things that you can do to check whether you are being followed.
- Cross over – if you are walking down a street, the most obvious thing to do is cross the street and see if the person behind does the same.
- Move faster – speed up your walking slightly to gain an advantage and see if they do the same. Don’t slow down as you are just shortening the gap.
- Forgot my keys – do the old “forgot my keys” trick and head back the other way. This will give you a chance to get a good look at their face.
The last thing that you want to do in this kind of situation is panic. You need to keep a clear head.
Look For a Way Out
As you are walking you need to constantly be looking for a means of escape should it be needed. This could be an open restaurant or a group of people you can disappear in to. This way, any potential attacker could not possibly do anything without being seen. If near any emergency services such as a police or fire station you could head there for safety.
Never try to take shortcuts down alleyways or through wooded areas if you believe you are being followed. Keep to well-lit areas only to avoid giving an attacker any chance of doing something.
One tactic you can use is to put your smartphones camera on video record and put it up to your ear as if speaking on the phone. A turn of the head can get a clear enough picture for the police.
If In Doubt – Shout
If none of the above is working you should try shouting and make sure others know that you are in need of help. This should only be done if you are completely sure that you are being followed. If you have a personal alarm or a whistle these are also good options for making a lot of noise.
If this is what you have to do then you should not stop making a noise until others have come to help.
An attacker wants it to be quick and easy so running away and trying to get as much distance between you and them is always good. Only run to where you know there will be people around that can help.
Fist of Keys
Keys can make a great weapon if you have no other option but to defend yourself. If it comes down to it, you need to do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Poke their eyes, kick, bite, scream, whatever is needed.
Whatever you do, don’t go straight home if you believe you are being followed. This is especially important if you live alone. The last thing that you want is a potential attacker knowing where you live.
What to do if Your Car is Being Followed
Driving is typically an uneventful experience but every now and then, something unexpected happens.
What do you do if everytime you look in the mirrors, the same car is following you? It can be a pretty scary experience to have the feeling of being followed.
So what should you do in this situation?
Have a Dashcam
Many good dashcams today have the ability to film both the front of the car and the back. These are something that every driver should have, especially when concerned about safety. Without it, you will be trying to juggle the steering wheel and simultaneously write down the car’s number plate which is just too dangerous. Even if the car takes off, you will have the number plate footage to give to the police.
The most important step to take is to remain calm. Yes it is an unnerving experience but if you and them are both in separate cars, you are safe as long as it stays that way.
If you have not already done so, keep the windows up and the doors locked.
Keep it Steady
We’ve all seen the movies in which the guy being followed loses the tail by speeding up but you should never follow that method. You don’t have the specialist training for driving this way so you will only be putting yourself and other road users in danger.
Keep your focus on the road ahead and understand that this could all just be you overthinking the situation. The car behind might not actually be following you at all.
A couple of steps that you can take to determine if you are in fact being followed is to:
- Make four turns in the same direction (four right turns or four left turns). The chances are slim that another driver would just happen to make the same 360 turn.
- Take the next off ramp and then get right back on the highway. Again, it is a very slim chance that somebody else would do the same.
Ignore Their Signals
If the car behind you starts to signal you by flashing their headlights they might just be warning you of a problem that you aren’t aware of.
If they do have bad intentions however, they could be doing so to try and get you to pull over so they can do whatever it is they have planned.
Never pull your car over unless you are at a place of safety where they won’t be able to harm you. This area should be well-lit and with plenty of witnesses. Which brings us to our next step.
Find a Place of Safety
If you are convinced that you are being followed or the person behind has tried to signal you to pull over, you need to drive to somewhere safe.
The safest option would be a police station but if this is not possible, head for a place where there are witnesses and somewhere there would hopefully be plenty of CCTV.
Don’t get out of your vehicle. Keep the windows up and the doors locked. You could try to alert the witnesses to your concerns by sounding your horn.
If the other vehicle is still behind you, call the police and tell them that you think your personal safety is at risk. They will send a local officer out and it could end up being nothing but it is not worth taking the risk.
Take a Mental Note
We mentioned at the beginning about having a good dashcam but even without one, you should be able to take a mental note of the driver and the vehicle. Try to gather as much information as you can to give to the police.
Of course, if you’ve got a passenger in the car with you then the job of taking notes is made even easier.
Don’t spend too much time trying to focus on what they are wearing as they can just change their clothes, focus only on what can’t be changed such as:
- Male or female
- Young or old
- Their Race
- Hair color
- Color of vehicle
- Type of vehicle and distinguishing marks
Report to the Police
The whole incident could turn out to be nothing but if you are sure that you were being followed, you need to report it to the police giving them all the information that you can. He may of drove off from you but he could quite as easily go and find an easier target.
If you suspect that you’re being followed, follow the above guidelines and make getting to a safe spot a priority.
Keep these tips in mind and use them to help you protect yourself from any stalkers.