While going about your daily errands, it is not unusual to run into the same people and neighbors in your community.
However, if you frequently see someone unknown to you in different places along your usual routes, they may be observing you for potentially malicious reasons.
You can confirm your suspicions when you know the signs of someone following you. These can include observing unusual behaviors, snapping photos, and walking too close to you.
Signs Someone’s Following You
An estimated 1.5 percent of Americans were victims of stalking in 2016. Like any animal hunting for prey, humans can set their sights on a target and attack. You need to stay vigilant when you’re alone and learn to watch for repetitive behaviors and signs.
1. Spotting the Same Person Multiple Times
People are all around you no matter where you go. When you’re out and about, you might run into someone you encountered earlier in the day. The first time it happens, it’s likely a coincidence, but if you run into the exact individual multiple times in one outing, it’s best to be wary. Look around you to see if this person is parking next to you and if they follow you into a store or restaurant.
2. Having Any Unusual Appearances and Mannerisms
You can tell if somebody is following you by their mannerisms and by their vehicle’s appearance. Note the make and model of the vehicle following you and the individual’s physical description.
Focus on if their vehicle has any unique characteristics, such as a vanity plate or anything hanging on their rearview mirror, making it easy to distinguish in a lineup. Also, keep an eye on the individual’s appearance, such as glasses and facial hair. You’ll want to provide these identifiers to the police if you feel the situation is becoming unsafe.
3. Showing Odd Behaviors
Even if it’s the first time you’re noticing an individual on your outing, there are behaviors they may exhibit that can indicate you’re being followed. If a person seems to be on the phone at a store while frequently glancing in your direction or moving to different aisles in sync with you, it’s a red flag.
Someone behaving oddly who doesn’t fit the appearance of an establishment’s usual consumer base is also a reason to be suspicious — for example, a man alone in a women’s clothing store.
4. Watching You Closely
If the pursuer seems to be watching you from afar, learning about your personal life, and even taking pictures of you without your consent, then they may be following you. Some pursuers may have you under surveillance with a private detective.
If you observe the same individual continuously photographing you, looking at you, or showing up at different locations throughout the day, you’re likely being followed.
5. Matching Your Speed
People jog, walk, and drive at various speeds. If you want to know whether someone is following you, try switching up your pace. If they consistently match your speed changes, there’s a strong possibility they are pursuing you on foot or by vehicle.
Observe whether they follow you closely, and consider ways to evade them. Instead of turning left on the streets leading to your home or workplace, go right and make a few turns and examine any changes in their behavior. If you keep circling the block and the car continues to trail you, then you are being followed.
6. Being Too Close for Comfort
There are various reasons someone might follow you, including the intention to harm you or steal. If someone is walking closely behind you or stands uncomfortably nearby at a bus stop, you have a reason for concern.
When driving alone, check your rearview mirror frequently to see if any vehicles follow close behind you. If they are right on your tail, allow them to pass you by slowing down. When the car doesn’t take the chance to pass but slows down with you, you know they’re intentionally sticking behind you.
7. You Having a Bad Feeling
Last, listen to your gut. Trust your intuition when you suspect you are being followed. When you sense something is amiss, the feeling in your gut is an instinct everyone possesses and should not be ignored.
If you feel uncomfortable in a situation where someone may be following you, confirm your suspicions by switching up your route, whether on foot or in your vehicle. If, after several detours, the individual is still sticking to you, you know you’ve got a tail.
What to Do if Someone Is Following You
If you suspect someone is following you, there are some calm ways to navigate the situation. Know how to defend yourself, be cautious, and take immediate action.
Rely on Self-Defense
About 33 percent of stalking encounters result in physical violence, so a willingness to defend yourself is a good thing. You can take self-defense classes or carry self-defense tools, such as self-defense knives or mace spray. Knowing how to protect yourself is essential when walking or driving alone.
Stay Calm in Public
Stay in a crowded, well-lit area with plenty of people and stores. Pause to look in a store window or tie your shoes, all the while being aware of your surroundings. Take the time to reflect and get a better feel for what’s going on. Pay close attention to the person’s physical appearance following you into the store so you can describe them to the police if necessary.
If you are being pursued while in your vehicle, you don’t want to slam on your brakes. Keep calm and continue driving. If they keep following you, make a phone call to your local police department.
Call the Police
If you feel unsafe and the situation is becoming dangerous, call the police. Speak clearly to indicate you’re in contact with someone in an attempt to scare off the perpetrator. Provide the officer with specific information about the stalker. Ask if you can remain on the phone with someone until help arrives.
If you are driving, visit your nearest police station and tell an officer you suspect you’re being followed. Provide them with detailed descriptions of the car and the driver so they can quickly identify the individual following you.
Prioritize Your Safety When Alone
There are plenty of good people in the world, but there are individuals with the potential to harm you as well. If you suspect someone is following you, don’t ignore the signs and your intuition. Despite the terror, you may feel, keep calm and take steps to prepare yourself, including reaching a safe place and having your self-defense weapons handy. When you’re ready with the proper tools to protect yourself, you’ll feel much safer walking or driving alone.