In some ways I think this is one of my most valuable videos on doing surveillance because it deals with such a common problem investigators have when following someone.
With my course, The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Surveillance, I get a lot of feedback from people and I actually get e-mails from people who haven’t even bought my course yet.
One the thing I hear a lot is just the nervousness of doing surveillance. The fear that the subject just knows you’re there. It just feels like they know you’re following them!
Early on I struggled with this too. I mean, how can they not see me back here?
But, here’s the thing…
99% of the time, It’s in your head.
Most people don’t notice or care who’s around them. They are not doing counter surveillance.
Understand what real counter surveillance looks like. And if you genuinely, empirically, scientifically, measurably think your subject is onto you, then, yes, there is a reason to break off the surveillance. But, don’t rely simply on your “feelings” that they might be onto you!
Just being nervous about being made is not reason to break off surveillance.
I’m going to give you three real world case studies that may help you a little bit with this nervousness on surveillance.
The first two cases I’m going to talk about are FBI cases.
Now, keep in mind, the FBI can have a team of agents following someone. They can rotate cars and use some of the more advance surveillance techniques you may not be able to do as a single P.I. following someone.
Here is an FBI team – trained, experienced, using multiple agents and multiple vehicles – and here is what they see…
1. They’re following a guy and every time he stops to get a gas, he gets a squeegee out from the gas station and cleans all of his car windows. The FBI presumes this is him doing counter surveillance by cleaning all the windows on his car. It allows him to look 360° around and see if anybody is following him or maybe to recognizing similar vehicles from earlier in that day.
2. Also following this guy around, they see that every Saturday he goes into a hardware store. He doesn’t buy anything but he comes out and they figure he’s meeting his handler (this is an espionage case) or a contact in the hardware store.
One week the FBI puts a man in the hardware store and see what their subject is doing in there. What they learn is the subject of their investigation is just cheap. He’s going into the hardware store on Saturdays because they have free coffee. He gets his free cup of coffee and leaves. Go figure.
Likewise with the car window cleaning, he’s not doing counter surveillance. He’s just too cheap to pay for a car wash so he cleans all his car windows by hand.
Here’s the lesson…
Neither one of these actions was what FBI thought because they are looking at it from their perspective. They’re projecting their beliefs forward into what they saw the subject doing!
That is what you need to avoid!
It is so difficult to go back and remember the time before you were in this industry. A time before you were aware of these things and realized that people do just drive around blind. Completely blind to the things that are going on around them!
3. The third example I want to give you is a case I worked.
I was following a woman. She left one morning and drives down the street. She pulls into an empty parking lot at a store and she sits there for a moment or two. Then turns the car around and drives back the way she came.
This is one of those times when you have to ask, “Is she on to me? Is this a counter surveillance move?” Because people looping around like that, is one of the things they’ll do when looking to see if they have a tail.
Fortunately, I had been doing this for a while and I knew in my mind (as weird as her actions were) there is no way she knew I was following her. I just knew from vast experience doing this, she was not on to me.
I didn’t know what it was she was doing, but I knew I wasn’t burned and I continue to follow her for a successful surveillance.
Later I found out, she was going shopping and she arrived at the store not realizing that it was closed that early in the morning. She took a few moments to look-up the store hours and turned around and drove back the way she came only because that’s the direction she had to travel anyways! She was not even close to worrying about being followed and wasn’t even vaguely conducting a counter surveillance move!
This is important… You don’t want to miss the clues that counter surveillance is going on or that the subject may be on to you. But you don’t want to invent them either.
In the case of the woman I was following, I was able to judge, in the balance of everything else I observed, she was not onto me – rather than being nervous and saying to myself, “She must know I’m here!”
You’ll gain that experience also, but in the meantime don’t project this imaginary thing in your head into the mind of the subject that you are following.
Don’t invent that they know you’re following them because it very likely that they don’t.
Use experience and use your training of what real counter surveillance looks like, but balance it with everything else that’s going on.
(NOTE: When I say “counter surveillance move”, I don’t necessarily mean a professional move a person has learned during training to detect if they’re being followed. Most of the time it’s just an impromptu, improvised move a person does almost instinctually when they notice something too suspicious.)
You don’t always have to follow your subject inside the places they go.
If you notice, in the FBI case study, they followed this guy for weeks and never went into that hardware store with him.
The FBI (with a team of agents!) did not follow him inside! That should tell you the proper move is usually to wait outside for your subject.
P.S. – The FBI never did “follow” their subject inside. Eventually they placed a man in there ahead of time to see what the subject did when he went in. There was no way the subject was going to spot a tale because there’s nobody getting out of a car following him in!
By the way, if you like this information, be sure to get my special report “If You Want to be a Private Investigator, Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things”. You can get your free copy right here
Committed to your success as a P.I.,
Larry Kaye, P.I &
#1 Best Selling Author