How to Tell If You’re Being Followed
Updated: Feb 17
What to Do If You are Being Followed
Today’s topic comes from you, the listeners. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been told stories of people being followed in stores, in parking lots, and even someone who was targeted by two cars that chased her. So today’s topic is how to know if you’re being followed.
The first thing we need to understand is that being followed is not unlike a wildlife documentary. There is a predator and there is prey. The predator isn’t going to catch its meal lounging under a tree. It has to work for its food. It has to find where it is, target it, and then attack it.
The predator has to stalk his prey. Humans work the same way.
‘Why’ is Not Important
Let’s break down the relationship into a stalker and a target. The reason why a stalker selects his target is a bit of an unknown and somewhat irrelevant. When faced with this sort of situation, we don’t need to focus on why we’re being stalked, we need to focus on spotting the stalker and responding accordingly.
We must pay attention when we are out of our homes. In stores, the office, in a parking lot, and even in the stands of your kid’s soccer game. Awareness will give us the time we need to respond. If we don’t see the stalker coming, then we’re left only to respond to his attack and our chances of being hurt skyrocket.
When being aware we have to know what to be aware of, right? Signs you’re being followed will be different based on your stalker and your environment. So what I discuss here will be general, but will apply to a variety of situations.
The first sign you have someone following you is their focus. If you notice someone paying you too much attention, that’s unusual. Even if you’re an attractive person like me, too much focus can be a sign of trouble. (I’m kidding.)
The stalker will focus on you because you are the target. They are watching you to size you up, make plans, and look for the perfect opportunity to strike. So being aware of other’s focus is important.
Spotting the Same Person
If you see someone in more than one location that’s actually not abnormal. If you grab lunch at a popular restaurant downtown and then head to the courthouse, and spot the same person, don’t panic. Those are both popular places where a lot of people come and go.
If you see them at the restaurant, at the courthouse, in the parking lot, driving behind you in traffic, and at the grocery store on the way home - then you have trouble.
Seeing someone once in close proximity isn’t enough to get worked up about. Seeing them at 3 or more places needs to raise your awareness.
How Are They Acting?
Also, note their behavior. If you see a man in multiple places and they seem to be going about their business, then it’s a coincidence. But if they look like they’re faking talking on the phone and glancing at you, then you have a problem.
As the book, Left of Bang teaches us, multitasking is a myth - humans can’t fully do two activities at once.
So people who are watching you at the grocery store won’t look and act like normal shoppers. They’ll exhibit signs of being uncomfortable and looking unnatural. You’ll be able to spot this, things will look odd.
Let Them Know You See Them
If you do see someone in three or more places I want you to consider making eye contact with them. Do this to acknowledge them, not to escalate the situation. The last thing you want to do is accuse someone of following you and not have any real evidence. They’ll be able to deny it and get into head about it.
The stalker wants to remain covert. Even lions when they stalk gazels sneak up on them. They want to get as close as possible before they strike to minimize the chances their prey will run.
That’s why they get low to the ground and hide in the tall grass for so long.
By letting the stalker know you see them, you change that dynamic. You will steal a bit of their confidence and make them rethink their plans. Most people will lose their confidence to act if they think there will be any kind of resistance. They have planned out their attack and you knowing they’re coming wasn’t part of that.
Take a Picture
If a casual glance or a repeated glance doesn’t work, then take a picture of them, outright. Lift your phone and snap a picture and don’t try to hide it. Then text that picture to a friend.
If they approach you and ask why you took their picture, tell them you liked their outfit. After you take the picture, stay in public until they leave or you can be safely escorted to your car.
Someone is Following You. Now What?
If you have a dedicated stalker, meaning someone who is overtly following you, don’t go home or to your office. Stay in public. If you have a car, get moving and call 911. Explain to them what’s going on.
They should tell you to go to a public place where hopefully officers will meet you. If you don’t have a phone, drive to the police station.
If you are on foot, look for a large group of people who you can stand with. And if you’re really worried, you can find someone who you think will help you and explain the situation to see if you can hang out with them until help arrives.
It’s never a bad idea to be able to defend yourself. That can be self-defense training, a self-defense tool like a firearm or pepper spray. Knowing how to protect yourself in a violent situation is always important.
Listen to Your Little Voice
Lastly, when you think you’re being followed, trust your gut. If that little voice is telling you to be wary of someone, then listen to it. This is your intuition and we all have it. Don’t stifle that God-given gift, embrace it. It wants to keep you safe.
Those are a few tips to help spot someone following you and how to deal with it. I want to encourage you to share this episode and article with someone you feel needs it. I hate to say it seems that we all know someone who’s had this problem before so be brave and share this with them.
For more information about keeping yourself safe in public, find out how to prevent a carjacking.