I'm Being Watched—How to Deal With Stalkers and Spies
Who Is Watching Me?
Have you got an odd feeling that somebody is watching you? You may see a fleeting movement out of the corner of your eye or hear strange noises when the house is quiet. You wonder if your home is under surveillance, so search the internet: "somebody is watching me.” The results are not helpful... mostly useless links to song lyrics. Nothing seems to reflect exactly how you feel: alone, vulnerable, angry, scared, and violated.
What's the difference between spying, stalking, and surveilling?
A spy is anyone who observes you secretly. A stalker is someone who spies on you repeatedly, for their own psychological or emotional reasons, with motives that are akin to harassment and intimidation. But surveillance is simply a close observation of a person who's under suspicion. So while a spy's motives might be unclear, a stalker's motives are twisted, selfish, and personal. If you are under surveillance, on the other hand, you are being watched because someone is trying to figure out if you've done something wrong. Surveillance is less personal and more purposeful.
Spying or stalking might be done by a jealous ex boyfriend, a nosy neighbor, or an obsessed acquaintance, while surveillance might be performed by a company, a private investigator, or the government.
Below, you'll find different instructions to fit each different scenario of being watched.
What If You Really Are Being Watched?
If you feel sure that you are being spied on, the first thing to do is trust your instincts. Next, there are several things you can do to determine and prove that it is happening. Don’t think it will go away, because it won’t. It's extremely important to take your suspicions seriously. Put yourself into a position of power and take action.
What to Do If You Suspect You Are Being Spied On:
- Determine who your stalker is and why they are spying on you, if you can. Below, you'll find a long list of possible offenders and motives.
- Look for and collect proof of their spying. Scroll down for details about where and how to look for evidence.
- Learn how to prevent and/or prosecute the person who's stalking you. You have many options, and each is described in full below.
Find Out Who Your Stalker Is
Sit down and brainstorm a list of possible suspects. In the majority of cases, the person watching you will be known to you—a personal stalker. The following is a list of possibilities to help jog your memory and generate a long list of all the potential culprits.
Types of Personal Stalkers
- The most common stalker is an ex or current partner or someone who feels rejected. People who display signs of jealousy or feel rejected are number one on the list of possible watchers. However, this type of stalker wants you to know that it’s them. Their ego demands that you recognize their ‘devotion.’ They are convinced that you need to learn the truth, that deep down you are completely in love with them and just need to be shown the error in your thinking. This behavior is a sign of mental illness. You won’t be able to convince them of this, so you need to contact someone who might be able to help. In every case, report them to the police.
- Another kind of personal stalker is someone whom you may have upset or angered in the past. Even inadvertently. Consider the people in your neighborhood, at work, at businesses and spots you frequent. This type is less likely to advertise their identity; they just want to make you suffer in their desire for revenge.
- Neighbors are also quite common among stalkers. After all, the closer people live, the more opportunity there is to both rile the emotions and maintain constant surveillance. You may have caught their attention or incurred their wrath in some way and now, the boundary between you and them is being breached.
- Then there are the randoms: Someone who has taken a fancy to you, someone who you may have exchanged a few words with and gone merrily on your way, leaving them thinking that your interaction meant far more than it actually did. These are the obsessives.
- The last variety is the predatory stalker. These are the ones who care nothing for you as a human being, they just want to own you—even for just a few minutes. These people, thank goodness, are very rare. Nevertheless, every sensible person, male or female, should take reasonable precautions when out alone. Rape alarms, pepper sprays, and a noisy dog are all good methods of protection. Better still is to have some basic knowledge, and practice, of self-defense skills.
What do stalkers have in common?
Whatever category your stalker comes under, they all share some commonalities:
- They are convinced that they are in the right, that they deserve to watch you or that you belong to them in some way.
- They have no idea—or don’t care—what effect their behavior has on you.
- They are able to rationalize their actions to any degree. In fact, they don’t think they are doing anything wrong or out of the ordinary.
Over 85% of Victims Are Stalked by Someone They Know
Is Your Ex Is Stalking You?
The following are examples of stalker-like behavior:
- They show up wherever you are, unexpectedly and uninvited.
- They monitor you on social media.
- They keep finding ways to contact you, even after you've changed your numbers and accounts.
- They keep tabs on you via shared contacts.
- They enter your house, even when they don't have a key.
- They send gifts even after you've tried to end the relationship.
- They install spyware on your devices or keep track of you via GPS.
- They seem to be keeping tabs on, and collecting information about, you.
- They spread rumors or post personal information about you.
- They refuse to leave you alone.
- They don't take "no" for an answer and pursues a relationship with you any way they can.
Signs Your Neighbor Is Spying On You
- They know things about you that they shouldn’t know.
- You suspect that they are listening via some sort of device.
- Your mail is being tampered or interfered with.
- They have entered your home or property while you were out.
- They stalk you on social media.
For more information, read My Neighbors Are Spying On Me: What Can I Do?
How to Get Rid of a Personal Stalker
Step #1 - Collect Evidence
Keep a written record of every single incident, however trivial, with dates and times. Take photos, recordings, and screenshots, if needed. Keep track of any witnesses (with names and contact information). Keep backed-up electronic records, too—remember that your phone or computer may be compromised, so have a second device that no one knows about. For information about how to check your house and car for spy devices, read How to Find Spy Devices in Your Home, Car, Cell Phone, or Computer.
Step #2 - Reset Phones, Computers, Passwords, and Social Media
- If your stalker might ever have had had access to your devices, they could have installed spyware or GPS tracking devices without your knowledge, so the smartest thing to do is get new ones.
- Even if you don't think they've installed spyware, reset your devices to factory settings and choose new passwords for all sites you frequent, including banks, social media, entertainment sites, and online shopping. This may only be a temporary solution, but do it anyway.
- If the stalking was online, then deactivate your social media accounts. Try setting new ones up under a different name and share your profiles with trusted friends one at a time, over a period of weeks. At the very least, check all your privacy settings and make sure you're not sharing with the public.
- Don’t post your life on social media. People can pick up all sorts of clues about you, your routine, places you go, etc. Keep posts general.
Step #3 - Report the Stalker
As soon as you have one or two pieces of evidence, go to the police and register a complaint. These days, they seem to be taking stalking and harassment more seriously than in previous years. Even if they can’t act because there is not sufficient evidence, there will be a record of your complaint so any officer you speak to subsequently will be able to look up the case record. Don’t be worried that the police will get fed up by your complaints. Keep them updated at all times.
Step #4 - If You Know Your Stalker, Employ the Gray Rock Method
If the stalker is known to you and regularly tries to make contact, use the Gray Rock Method. This term was coined by the victim of a psychopath stalker who learned how to deal with him. It is a useful technique when you have to speak to your stalker because you have some common interest, such as a child together.
The Gray Rock Method:
- Respond only when you have to.
- Keep your responses as short, boring, and monotonous as possible.
- Add no inflection to your voice, use bland vocabulary, and display no emotion.
- Only give essential facts in order to conclude the interaction.
This method works well if the stalker shows psychopathic or sociopath tendencies. They thrive on drama so don’t give them what they want. Eventually, their behavior will change as they lose interest in you. Gray Rock can enable you to become invisible to that person, and any other who shows an unwanted interest in you. By making yourself as boring as possible, they will soon look for more interesting prey.
About 1 in 5 Victims Are Stalked by a Stranger
Is Stalking or Spying On Someone a Crime?
Stalking is usually an accumulation of several legal acts which, when combined, become a crime. For example, sending emails is not a crime, watching someone's house is not a crime, and following them is not a crime, but when the motive is sociopathic, when larger patterns of intent are established, if probable cause can be established, and if the recipient of these actions starts getting scared, then innocent acts turn into stalking.
Stalking is usually perpetrated by men on women. It's usually a man who feels rejected by a woman whom he believes owes him something. He thinks he is entitled to her attention and if he doesn't get it, he takes matters into his own hands and forces intimacy any way he can.
However, women can be stalkers too. And their vengeance knows no bounds; they will sometimes extend their harassment to their ex's new partner.
Is stalking illegal?
Stalking is illegal, but it requires sufficient proof. To prove it's happening, you must be able to clearly prove a pattern of behavior, that threats were made (implicitly or explicitly), and that there was criminal intent to cause fear. With proof, you can get the court to issue a protective or restraining order.
Most stalkers stop their creepy behavior if they are confronted by police, but if they don't stop, then it becomes a criminal matter. This is why it's important to involve the police.
Since anti-stalking laws and legislation vary from state to state, check out this Stalking Resource Center to find out about your state's policies.
Is it legal for an owner to install cameras to spy on me in an AirBnB?
No, it's not legal, but it's done all the time. To read more (and find out what to do about it), read How to Check Your Airbnb Rental for Spy Cameras.
How to Catch a Stalker by Collecting Evidence
It is not recommended that you confront your stalker yourself. Instead, do what you can to collect evidence so the police can help you.
- Keep a log describing every single incident, however small, including dates and times.
- Take photos, video, and audio recordings, if needed. Have hidden security cameras mounted around your property. You can buy many relatively inexpensive counter-surveillance devices online.
- Keep track of any witnesses (with names and contact information).
- Keep all emails, texts, letters, voicemail, and records and screenshots of any other electronic communications. Even if they are sent anonymously, each email contains IP information which can help investigators find your stalker, don't delete them.
- Write down the details and license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
- Hire an investigator or PI to watch and collect evidence against your suspected stalker.
Traps for Stalkers
Again, it is not recommended that you physically trap, confront, or even interact with your stalker.
- On the other hand, by using a device like this , you can discover a hidden microphone transmitter or video camera in your home. Anti Spy Signal Detector
- Hidden cameras placed strategically might be helpful, too. If you can't afford cameras, you might be able to rent the equipment.
- If you don't feel equipped to do your own counter-surveillance, hiring an investigator or PI who has access to all the latest gadgets and tech to watch and collect evidence for you can help build your case.
Why Would Someone Be Under Surveillance?
- If you are a witness to a crime or involved in any legal proceeding.
- If you are filing for divorce or suing for custody of your children.
- If you owe money.
- If you have filed for disability or bankruptcy.
- You work for a company that is being spied on by a competitor.
- If your work makes you interesting in some way (if outsiders might be looking to capitalize on your knowledge or take your company to court for any reason).
- You engage in criminal activity.
- You have knowledge that could damage reputations or projects.
- You are involved in a legal case and the other side may be seeking to build up evidence to discredit you.
- If some individual has taken an unhealthy interest in you.
- If you are close with another person who fits any of the descriptions above.
- The government is tracking you. This is a given. Most governments now collect metadata on everyone. In the UK, CCTV tracks your every move if you live in a city.
- You have a mobile device, a tablet, or a cell phone. Your apps, browsers, and devices are tracking you, your surfing habits, your social media posting—everything. If you take a photo, GPS data is transmitted to reveal your location. The only way to prevent this is to remove the battery.
Are You Under Surveillance?
If you suspect you are under surveillance by some sort of organization or even if an individual is watching you, read: How to Find Spy Devices in Your Home and take the steps outlined therein to find out if your home has been bugged. Remember that these days most bugging takes place via an electronic device. It couldn’t be easier for someone to install an invisible app on your phone, or hack into your laptop’s camera or microphone. They can even be installed remotely.
Signs That You Are Under Surveillance
- Vans parked outside your home. Often, they appear like innocuous domestic-type business such as plumbing, heating, building, that sort of thing. Unless you can see actual work being carried out at a neighbor’s home, then be suspicious.
- Unusual activity, strangers in the neighborhood, a change in the usual routine are usually nothing to worry about. However, you can sometimes feel in your gut that things are ‘off.’ So keep your antennae alert for anything out of the ordinary. However, the very nature of these methods mean that the operatives who carry them out are so skilled that 99 out of 100 people will never know that they are being watched.
- Strange noises on your house or cell phone and a sudden, fast battery drainage are signs that someone might have installed spy cameras without your knowledge or accessed your devices remotely.
- You notice drones overhead. The ease of use and fast advancing technology makes spying-by-drone commonplace.
How to Prevent Surveillance
In short, you can’t. Unless you can prove that the surveillance is illegal, threatening, harassing or damaging, if you want to live in general society, you have to accept that your information and behavior is monitored by many agencies.
Alternatively, you can change your lifestyle, move to a location where you can live off-grid or become a nomad.
Am I Being Followed by the Government?
Yes, the government is tracking you. They are tracking everyone. Most governments have become quite adept at collecting metadata on everyone. In the UK, CCTV tracks your every move if you live in a city.
Who Else Is Surveilling Me?
Data brokers, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, websites you visit, apps you use, search engines and browsers, advertisers, and many others have reasons to collect information about you.
Being Watched: It Might be Your Imagination
It starts with a minor incident, such as a trash bin being knocked over late at night, then perhaps the sound of a squirrel in the roof. Your fertile imagination builds on it and attributes every sound, unexpected beep on your phone and passing footsteps to your ‘somebody is watching me’ fear. The fear becomes a phobia.
Although spying does happen, nine times out of ten it is nothing more than a feeling. Many people experience it. Severe cases are called “The Truman Show Delusion” after the movie where Jim Carey’s character realizes that his whole life is just a TV show being broadcast to millions and he is the only one who's unaware that he is the main character.
But for most of us, the spying is all in our heads. If you can be objective enough to realize that your fears are unsubstantiated, but they persist nevertheless, then a course of counseling, a visit to a psychotherapist or even an honest chat with a trusted friend can set your mind at ease.
Have You Been Watched?
Questions & Answers
I have been spied on for over a year. I've moved states and have quit jobs over and over. I feel helpless. I have family members involved, and the more I run from it, the worse it gets. I've reported it to the FBI and the police, and it just makes it worse. I constantly have my location shared while I'm driving and my phone bugged. It has turned in to a game that involves thousands of people, but with little proof, is there anything I can do?
And that's the key. You have to collect proof. Keep records. Write everything down. If you see and hear these things happening, then there must be proof of them, yes? Try to determine why you have been targeted. Try to remember the first time you became aware of it. Write or record as much information as you can recall.
Then, once you have the proof, contact the Stalking Resource Center - link provided in the article.Helpful 32
I am being watched by my neighbors. My lawn has been vandalized, my cars have been keyed, and the tires nailed or deflated. I believe they have posted something negative about me online. Is there any way I can find out about what is posted about me?
You can only do this by Googling your name, nickname, or perhaps your address. If you're on Facebook and Twitter, then search their details. With the other stuff, like I tell everybody, collect evidence; actual camera footage of them causing vandalism. Load up your car and home with spy cameras - they are pretty cheap these days.Helpful 14
How can I get people to quit watching and harassing me?
Read the article and implement some of the suggestions given.Helpful 85
I live alone in a bungalow. I need to know how can I stop a pervert climbing my gate to watch me if cctv cameras dont put him off?
Take your recordings to the police. He's trespassing.Helpful 1
I have a stalker who is spying on me in my home. My roommate caught him two days ago spying on me in the shower. I’m thinking of getting a camera & lights. What else can I do?
Report him to the police. Do not wait. Do it now.Helpful 4