Written by Bernie Carr
I came across a post on Facebook written by a woman who was certain she was being followed by a man while shopping at Walmart. Before exiting the store, she spoke with a manager who assigned one of the associates to walk her to her car. As she walked out, she noticed the same man hanging around outside, but he walked away when he saw she was accompanied as she left the store.
It is scary when you feel you are being followed. I’ll never forget when it happened to me. Years ago, I took out some cash at a bank branch inside a grocery store. As the teller counted out the cash, I felt this guy at the next counter staring at me. Instead of walking back to my car, I grabbed a shopping cart and went to the grocery store. At one point, I faced him and looked straight at him, then I quickly walked to aisles that had a lot of people. After that he went off in another direction. I think the fact that he knew I was aware of his actions, plus my walking to a crowded area sent him away. I was on high alert when I left the grocery store and made sure there were a lot of people around when I got in my car.
How to tell you are being followed
Before you start thinking why would anyone follow me, I’m no one, think again. You could have an ex who hasn’t given up harassing you, someone with a grudge against you, a stalker, road rage driver – you just never know. Or, you could be a target for a follow home robbery. Just a few weeks ago, two women in Houston were robbed at gunpoint at their apartment after the perpetrator followed them home from ATM nearby.
- Practice situational awareness at all times. This means you must be focused on who’s around you, your immediate surroundings. If you are driving, you notice the cars that are near you.
- According to former CIA officer Jason Hanson, author of Spy Secrets that can Save Your Life the rule of thumb in the intelligence community:
One time-an accident
Two times-a coincidence
Three times-enemy action
As an example, if you think you are being followed at a Walmart, go to unrelated aisles such as the produce department, electronics, then furniture. If the person is still sticking around, he may be following you.
- Is the individual matching your pace?
- Is the person staring intently at you? When I was followed at the grocery store, I felt the guy staring at me as the bank teller was counting out my cash withdrawal.
- Are you noticing the person at various times, in various areas?
- If you are driving, make three to four right turns and see if the car you noticed is still behind you. Or, if you are on the freeway, safely get off the freeway then get back on.
- Trust your gut. Don’t discount your intuition or “spidey” sense – a lot of times, victims regret not listening to that inner voice warning them something bad is about to happen.
What to do
You’ve noticed you are being followed. What should you do? In my case, I went to a crowded grocery store and purposely visited the most crowded aisles. For about three aisles, I knew he was still behind me, but by the fifth turn, I turned around and left.
Take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. If you panic you might endanger yourself more.
Pause and take a look
As it turns out, when I looked directly at the guy who I believed was following me, I had done the right thing by looking over and making him realize I was on to him. Criminals would rather pick someone who is not paying attention than someone who is alert and watchful.
“While you are walking, simply pause, turn around, and pretend to do something-like check your phone, tie a shoe, or turn around as if you were looking for someone. Then look directly at the person you think is following you.”
Don’t look like a victim
Walk purposefully, keep your head up. Use your cellphone and call someone (while out in public). Speak in a loud voice. If you have pepper spray, make sure you have it out.
Stay in a public place
If you are driving, don’t go home. The last thing you want if for the criminal to know where you live. As the news report indicated, criminals often follow their target all the way home. You are vulnerable as you are getting out of your car or walking to your door.
Instead, go to a busy area such as a department store, coffee shop or fast food restaurant that is open. Many stores have shut down during the pandemic, so make sure the place you are headed to is open!
If you are in a store, don’t try to walk to your car. Go to security and have someone walk you to your car.
The final word
Criminals choose their victims based on their perception that the target will be weak and caught by surprise. If you appear strong, alert, observant, they’ll be motivated to move along.
We are an affiliate of Amazon.com, which means we received a small commission if you click through one of our Amazon links when you shop, at totally no cost to you. This helps keep the lights on at the blog. Thanks!
About the author:
Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.