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Counterintelligence Series #2: Evasion - Losing a tail

Unless you are a criminal or suspect in a crime, nobody would be following you.  Right?  You would be surprised.  Most of you have been, or will be, followed at some point in your lives.  Since we have ruled out the police following you, it must be assumed that your follower wishes to do you harm.  Do you have a crazy ex? Do they have friends and/or family? Have you recently fired an employee? Cut someone off in traffic? I bet you met someone at a party that came off a little bit too odd. Maybe you just look like an easy mark for a thief or kidnapper.  No? I got it.  You're in litigation over a custody issue? You're suing someone, or being sued?   There are too many morepossibilities, and all of you fall into one of these labels. 


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Let's start by becoming a harder target.  Vary your daily routine.  Vary your travel routes to and from work.  Go to the gym in the morning sometimes, instead of the afternoon.  Stop broadcasting your location on social media, and turn off locations on you Facebook and Instagram posts. If I were stalking you, this would be my first choice for scoring intel. For more on this, see Counterintelligence Series #1. These days, nobody pays attention to what is going on around d them, so following someone is extremely easy.  How do you even know that you are being followed?  First, maintain situational awareness.  Understand what is normal for your current environment.  This is known as establishing a baseline.  Once that baseline is set, look for anomalies or stand outside.  Is someone looking at you more than others?  A little too much eye contact from someone? Seeing a car cruise by your house more than normal is another anomaly that should put you on some kind of alert.  If you see the same person in 3 different places, you should take notice immediately.  A quick rule of thumb, from the intelligence community, follows:

1 time is an accident.

2 times is a coincidence.

3 times is enemy action.

Possibly the most important rule of counterintelligence, as I mentioned in Counterintelligence Series #1, is trust your gut.  If it seems wrong, it is probably wrong and deserves attention.

Confirm Your Suspicions:

If you feel like someone is tailing you in a car, there are 2 quick tests. 

1.  Make 4 right turns.  If the other car is still around at the 4th turn, they are following you.  Nobody would travel in a circle, just for fun. 

2.  Exit the interstate, and then get right back on.  If they do the same, guess what! You have a tail.   

It may be a little harder to conform a tail on foot, because you probably have a routine and see some of the same people in the same places.  Change that.  If you always see the man in the green ball cap at Starbucks at 6:30, and you change your routine, what would you think if you saw him an Dunkin' at 6:30 the next day?  Yep.  Tail conformed. 

The second method for exposing a tail on foot is simple.  Change your pace.  If the suspected tail speeds up and slows down with you, he is following you.  

The next 2 tests are fun, but should only be done in a busy area.  

a) Stop and turn. Suddenly stop to tie your shoe or to pick up the pen that you just dropped.  Turn, drop, and stare directly at the suspect.  If they are following you, they'll give themself away. Likely, they will freeze or act unnatural out of surprise.  Someone who isnt following you will simply walk around you.  

b) Turn around and walk towards the potential threat.  If they turn around and follow you, well...

Now that you have confirmed your tail, there are 2 rules to follow.  

1) Stay in well populated areas.  Dont put yourself into a possible 1 on 1 situation with your pursuant.  If you are in a car, stay on main roads with good street lights.  Obviously, taking the dirt road through the woods is a little too risky.  If you are afoot, stay wherethe crowds are, or find a crowded area quickly.  Avoid parking lots and parking structures.  They provide too many ambush opportunities to your follower.

2) Don't go home.  Naturally, you will want the safety of your home, dog(s), and locked doors.  Please, don't show your follower where you live. 

Shake the Tail:

In the car-

Let him know that you're on to him.  Let him see you write down his license plate number, and take pictures of him/his car.  Some strong eye contact goes a long way, here.  

Get out of sight. It's ok to do some weaving through traffic, and similar maneuvers to create space between the two of you.  Use big trucks to shield yourself.  Go as fast as the rest of traffic.  It's easy to see the fast car or the slow car.  

Shoot the gap.  In the left turn lane, at a red light, gun it and turn left as soon as the light turns green.  Only one car can make it, and your tail will be left at the light.  If you are able to put a few cars between you, turn off of that road as soon as you can.  

Call the police.  This does t have to be done in sequence.  Call the police whenever you feel like you need to.  Keep an eye on the tail whil you dial 911.  Give them all necessary info i.e. location, direction of heading, descriptions of both cars, etc.  Stay on that heading until the police find you.  Dont change directions, turn onto another road, or stop.  

Avoid confrontations.   Avoid chases. 

On Foot- 

On foot, it’s even more important to stay in public and crowded areas since you don’t have the protection of your car. Don’t enter an alley or a minimally occupied building or any space that would allow your pursuer to be alone with you. 

Keep moving and changing your appearance.  Losing a hat or coat, gaining a hat or coat, or shedding a shirt layer can have much more of an impact than most would think.  Your pursuer has built a mental image, and any variation will help.  

Mass transit can be used to your advantage.  It is easy to get lost in the swarm getting off of a bus.  Entering or exiting a subway at the last second will usually cause your tail to get stuck on the other side.  

Find a Starbucks or other retail business with an glass walls and two entrances. Grab a seat near the entrance facing out. Camping in such a public location will give you a good view of all your surroundings and will not allow anyone to hang around you for too long, without arousing suspicion. 


Keep in mind that these tactics only work against the threats that I listed above.  If you are being followed by the police, another government agency, a trained private observer, or a team, it isnt going to be this easy.  If either of these are following you, it’s likely you’re in some kind of deep trouble and will have people keeping tabs on you in more ways than following you down the street.

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