If you want to follow someone like a private eye, there are a few things you need to know first.
There are moments in your life where circumstances may call for you to follow someone for some reason. Perhaps you suspect your spouse or significant other of having an affair? Maybe you’ve met someone online and you want to check them out before actually meeting up in public? Whatever the reason, if you want to follow someone like a private eye, there are a few things you need to know first.
Most importantly: laws about following someone will vary from state to state. It could be considered an invasion of privacy, harassment, or even stalking depending on the state. So the first step is to know the laws in your state!
Secondly, following someone carries inherent risks. If you are spotted, it could lead to a dangerous confrontation. Or you could cause the other person to flee from you, possibly causing a serious accident.
“Honestly, it’s a really bad idea for try to conduct surveillance yourself,” says Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio. “Odds are you aren’t very good at it, and it carries huge risks.”
The techniques of following someone without detection are used by private investigators who have licenses to do so, so in the end it would be safer to actually hire a professional private investigator to do the job.
Private detectives often have the same surveillance equipment that police departments do. “Following someone effectively and discreetly is a skill that most private investigators learn through years of experience,” says Giglio. “We can do it without detection and can get the information or video evidence you need.”
And there’s one additional advantage: a private investigator isn’t emotionally invested in the target. They don’t have a grudge and so will keep a cool head.
If, after reading all of this, you still insist on following someone yourself, at least follow these precautions.
First, get to know your target’s habits and patterns before heading out in your car. It will be easier to follow them if you know what days they go to the gym, what time they leave work every day, and what their favorite restaurants are. This information will help you figure out a way to discreetly follow a person without being noticed. The biggest obstacle, of course, is that sometimes you don’t know where a person is going so it’s hard to anticipate their every move. Be ready for sudden changes in where they go, especially if you are following them in traffic.
Second, keep your distance. Stay well back from their car in traffic. Don’t push to make it through a traffic light just to tail someone. Odds are you can catch up to them at the next stop.
The same rule applies to parking: keep a good distance from the person you’re following. If you are using a video camera or binoculars to watch someone, try to park far enough away so that you can’t be seen yourself. If you are watching someone’s house, don’t park across the street!
Be aware of your distance and your surroundings at all time. Same principle applies if you are following someone in a car – there is no need to be right on their bumper because that is a sure way to get caught. Just drive normally and keep their vehicle in your sight at all times.
If you are considering using a hidden camera to record someone, they are now available to the general public in many different forms that no one could detect such as eyeglasses, computer speakers, Bluetooth headsets, coffee cups, smoke detectors, watches, fans, or even digital picture frames.
Again, keep in mind that recording people or phone calls can be a legal nightmare if you are caught.
The laws differ from state to state and there may be other factors involved. A general rule of thumb is that if the person is in a public place, it is legal to record them, although this might differ from state to state. Caution is recommended if you intend to use hidden cameras in private or business settings because that really is illegal for amateurs to do.
Our bottom-line advice: don’t be a fool and try to follow someone yourself, hire a professional to do the job for you.