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Signs to Check If You’re Under Surveillance by Police

Being under surveillance by the police seems like something out of a movie, but it happens frequently. Today, we’re going to show you how to detect two types of police surveillance, plus how to boost your privacy with a VPN.

“Police surveillance” conjures images of men in fedoras and trench coats parking outside your house, making notes of your activity monitoring the phone they somehow managed to tap. While this makes for a great detective movie, the reality these days is rather more sophisticated.

To be sure, physical surveillance is very much alive and well, though these days network surveillance is another commonly employed and effective tool used by the police. In this article, we’ll teach you how to recognize the signs of both. Additionally, if you’re concerned about your privacy online, we’ll show you how to pick and use a VPN to boost your anonymity.

Please note: While we are staunch privacy advocates, we never condone criminal activity. It is up to you to understand and follow the laws of your country.

Network surveillance

Truth be told, it is actually very difficult to know for sure that someone is monitoring your Internet connection. Thus, we can’t give you any signs to look for. Instead, we’ll equip you with the most valuable advice an Internet goer can hear: Always assume someone is monitoring your network!

This doesn’t mean you need to descend into the depths of paranoia, you just need to prepare your devices for anonymous usage. The single best way to do that is with a virtual private network, or VPN for short.

A VPN is piece of software which encrypts the data flowing through your network, so that anyone without the decryption key only sees a jumbled mess of nonsensical code. It also serves to hide your IP address (essentially your digital passport) by routing it through a remote server, located somewhere else in the world. If you’ve ever wanted to cover your tracks online, a VPN is the single best way to do that.

What data shows up on an unencrypted network

Here’s what the police (or anyone else for that matter) can see if you DON’T use a VPN:

  • Personal identifying information and account passwords
  • Credit card information you’ve used to pay online with
  • Browsing history
  • Communications with friends, family and colleagues
  • Location metadata
  • You, through your webcam!

Best VPNs to protect your privacy

VPNs are powerful, versatile, and secure. You can install them on your phone, laptop, gaming console, and even on your home’s router. Once activated, they veil your activity and hide your identity, so you can browse, download, communicate, and stream in peace.

Here are the top 2 VPNs for preventing network surveillance:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is known above all for its incredible speeds, which are available through their robust network of servers numbering over 3,000 nodes in 94 countries worldwide. However, ExpressVPN is absolutely no slouch when it comes to privacy, with unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption anonymizing each packet of data that leaves your device, backed by a thorough no-logging policy which prevents records of your VPN activity from ever being kept.

We love ExpressVPN for how lightweight it is, you simply activate it, and it runs quietly in the background while you go about your business. It’s awesome for streaming and downloading, as the OpenVPN encryption protocol allows for high security and great speeds, something other protocols demand you compromise on. If you really want to be a privacy ninja, there’s a split tunneling option, which allows you to encrypt the traffic flowing only from specific apps, while everything else appears completely normal to anyone monitoring your network.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the VPN industry’s tested workhorses, and we recommend it readily to anyone searching for incredible utility. For starters, the server network is gargantuan; over 5,700 servers dot 60 countries worldwide, allowing you to spoof IP addresses from virtually any corner of the globe while guaranteeing access to a nearby server for optimal connection speeds. Not enough? Check out their array of specialty servers tuned for tasks like P2P, anti-DDoS, onion over VPN, and even double encryption for when you really need your connection to be uncrackable.

256-bit AES encryption over OpenVPN comes standard on each connection, offering a nice balance of speed and security. NordVPN’s privacy policy lives up to its technical features as well, with an independently audited no-logging guarantee erasing any trace of your activity online. NordVPN is available for most devices, and a single subscription will allow you to connect up to 6 devices simultaneously.

Physical surveillance

Most chalk a potential tail up to personal paranoia. But in an age where Big Brother is more fact than fiction, you may fears may be real. Here are three points to consider when determining whether or not someone, be it the police or anyone else, is on your case:

Check for tails

If you think that someone is following you, take a moment to consider that tailing a person is not as easy as it seems in the movies. Tailing requires a lot of resources and time, and the local authorities can’t waste their budget by just following an average citizen for a minor violation. If the authorities are showing a keen interest in you, then it is clear you have done something significant.

If this describes your situation and you suspect someone is physically following you, try the following tactics to get rid of your tail:

  1. First, if you’re walking, avoid looking over your shoulder and picking up your pace. It’s imperative to act like you are not aware of your tail. The same rules basically apply when driving as well. You want to assess how closely you’re being followed, and observe any patterns that can help you gain control of the situation.
  2. Second, try changing up your normal route. If you’re walking home, for example, try walking around the block a few times. Your tail will realize that something’s up, and may back off. Moving through crowded spaces can also help you identify that one person who always seems to be nearby.
  3. Third, make note of how your tail reacts to the above points. Police are likely to be undaunted, and may eventually make their presence known regardless of what you do. However, private investigators have no such jurisdictional confidence, and can be shaken if you assess the situation correctly.
  4. Finally, in any case, never panic. Reckless movement or driving can cause authorities (be it your tail or incidental officers) to seize you immediately, not to mention the physical risk to yourself and those around you.

Assess whether spyware is on your phone

Oftentimes, it’s cheaper and more effective for your tails to simply install spyware (or a conventional tap) onto your phone than to physically follow you around. Such tactics can easily reveal your location via GPS and check-in metadata, as well as your interests via Google searches and browsing history. Anyone trying to build a case on you can use this information to create a compelling profile.

Here are some signs your device is tattling on you:

Your phone is acting different than normal.

This can come in the form of random shutdowns, lighting up when you’re not using it, or even producing strange noises. You should know the quirks of your own phone well enough to discern any differences, so don’t dismiss them as random occurrence should they show up.

Abnormal battery consumption

Spyware still requires system resources to function, and thus drain the battery faster than normal. While all batteries do lose capacity over time, you can assess your battery’s health with built-in analytics (iOS) or third-party apps (Android). Compare your stated battery health with the average usage hours (you can find this information online), and if there’s a massive difference, it may point to spyware.

Increased data usage

Similar to the point on battery life, spyware needs to use your network to report back to your tail, incurring more data usage. Most phones have some form of data monitoring, but there are plenty of third-party apps to help you visualize this as well.

Strange noises during calls

Building off the first point, pay special attention to weird noises during calls. Clicking, beeping, and static are all possible signs of a tapped phone. If you hear anything out of the ordinary, be careful with what you say.

Check your SMS history for unusual texts

Many spy programs are actually controlled by coded messages, which appear as random strings of numbers and letters. If you see this, chances are good that your device has been compromised.

Bait your tail

Finally, you might try some counter-espionage of your own. Try calling a reliable friend, and tell them something which is not actually true that might incite a reaction from your tail. Just like a mousetrap, it can become quite clear that someone has been listening to your conversation using this method.

Secure your emails

Just like your phone, your computer is vulnerable to spying methods as well. Try these tips to ascertain whether this vector is being utilized to track you, and to secure your communications:

Install email tracking software

Services like GetNotify and ReadNotify allow you to see when someone opens your email, where it was opened, and for how long the email was kept open. You can even track the IP address of anyone who opens your email, allowing you to see if anyone more than your intended recipient(s) has read your email.

Set up an encrypted email client

This way, only recipients you designate will be able to decode your messages, allowing you to communicate in total privacy. It can be a bit labor-intensive depending on the level of security you’re going for, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.

Check for key loggers

If you’re unfamiliar, keyloggers are pieces of malware that record every keystroke you make with your keyboard. Passwords become trivial to guess, and even email encryption becomes useless. Keyloggers run in the background, and won’t simply display icons in the system tray. You may need to check your task manager for anything out of the ordinary, or even install some anti-malware software to root it out. Updating your operating system can also be effective at neutering keyloggers.

Conclusion

Police tailing comes in many forms in the digital age, so you need to know how to spot the signs. We’ve shown you a few of the most common methods authorities use to tail their suspects. Private investigators and even criminals themselves can also use these methods.

If you’ve done something wrong, please do not make a habit of dodging the police; it will only compound the charges against you. However, you should know how easy it is to compromise your privacy online and in real life. This includes a plethora of information about your whereabouts, activity, and interests.

A VPN can help shore up the deficiencies of your various devices. By wrapping each packet of information in a veiling layer of encryption, VPNs enable you to control your privacy online.

Have you ever had a tail, and if so what ended up happening? Let us know your story in the comments below!

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35 Comments

  1. I’ve had several tails since 2015. First I’ll give a little backstory as several events were occurring all around the same time… First, I was an unfortunate victim of ‘hes got the wrong guy’ type of mistake in the summer of 2015, an attacker banged on my door one evening and when I went to open the door due to them being a dead ringer for a cousin of mine, he kicked open the door, entered my home and tried to kill me basically. I suppose he had a wallet stolen at a store earlier in the evening, I remember passing this guy at the door as I was exiting the store, held the door for him as he was coming in. I guess after he returned to the store to inquire about his wallet, the real thief was still shopping inside and from what I heard from the store manager, he gave the man my name as a probable suspect to throw suspicion off himself… very small rural community of 1500 people. My wife was able to get the police to come as I’m fending off knife attacks from him, long story short I was the only one arrested for my behavior towards the police for doing absolutely nothing (long history of this in my county, lots of corruption), I file for violation of my family’s 1st, 4th and 14th amendment rights. At the grand jury testimony, I ended up walking out as they were more concerned with my past than the case I demanded justice for. I’m a disabled OEF/OIF combat veteran with severe PTSD, and until I had been diagnosed properly i chose to cope via illicit drugs and alcohol. However, during this incident I had been clean and sober for 9.5 years, and was trying to finish a masters program in social work so I could go on to work in the addictions treatment field. Moving on…
    Law enforcement tend to rally the troops when claims that could land the 7 of them in a federal court case. Needless to say they get mad, very mad.
    From that day on to the present I have been dealing with attempts at surveillance upon myself in one form or another, and those in my immediate family, my siblings, and my parents as well were targets. I discovered the use of an IMSI catcher, or stingray actively transmitting its man-in-the-middle attack from the back of the quintessential undercover van, a non-descript, white, late-90s Chevy G20 van, that just so happened to be parked on my property; a fact they were unaware of since I had just acquired the 2.5 acres from a neighbor just 2 days prior. I was tipped off to some type of digital attack as my device would drain the battery quickly, would become too hot to hold when at rest, and itd shut down at random.
    I was in the Navy for 10yrs, later in my career becoming involved in counter intelligence/surveillance, and I was/am quite efficient in that specific field, though I refuse to work within it today as it’s a huge trigger for PTSD in my case.
    Before I go any further, if you feel immediately overwhelmed in trying to figure out whether or not you are under surveillance… security cameras, dash cams, small commercial hidden cams are you best friend, they see all and in awesome 1080HD for most devices. Also, invest in a quality frequency scanner, or a dedicated device to detect hidden frequencies. Most spy shops carry good effective models that also combine a lens for you to look through that highlights the glint of IR cameras, so you can scan around your home or yard to detect them.
    There are also apps that can be downloaded that use a smartphone’s variety of sensors to detect frequency, electromagnetic fields and use the phones camera to show and indication of the use of infrared tech. Watch them back…
    Maybe this is common sense here, but I’ve found it is fairly easy to differentiate between which level of law enforcement it is that may be surveilling you, or if it’s not law enforcement at all. In a rural area like mine, locals will not be trained and will stick out like sore thumbs. I personally didnt need to employ a preferred method to spot these amateurs. I guess this would depend on where you live, rural, suburb, city, etc…
    I have seen these type doing their homework and attempt to increase surveillance skills, but at the end of the day, these guys are usually doing this in their off hours, or are not as dedicated as it diverts from their own norm on the day to day. It can backfire and cause them to place a metaphorical sign over their heads as they are not training properly.
    One thing I’ve seen them do is alk wear plain black ball caps, which may have sounded like an excellent idea, they can see each other and know who is who, but guess what… so can you. it’s just a waste of time but yet I’ve encountered it time and time again.
    The State law enforcement surveillance Ive encountered (also related to the rights violations case) was surveillance from the BCI, Bureau of Criminal Investigation. They were easy enough to spot right off. They had a budget of some sort, but living in a rural area, any odd coincidences or out of the ordinary events are easy to spot. They also employed the ball cap thing, never seemed to switch out vehicles so I would see the same two people in the same vehicle, and when they would pass me in the opposite direction on the roads but wouldnt hide the fact they were using a CB radio, everytime, and would not wait until we fully passed one another. I would see their hand go up to their mouth just as their window would be by my window.
    I should mention, the info yo not freak out and alert yo the fact you know you are being watched/followed, this will only cause the tail to fall back until later on. Learn to view and be able to focus on the 180° field of view you have without turning your head too much. Your peripheral vision is your friend, hide the direction of your eyes with sunglasses if its daytime, and use reflective surfaces to your advantage. Stop by a shop window and see if you can view what your tale does.
    Something I do to Walmart loss prevention when they needlessly harass me, I say harass bc I’ve never shoplifted so never follow me based on your untrained hunch. I would alert to them, then make sure their going to follow me a few aisles, then I’ll turn the corner like I’m going th o ho down another aisle, then almost immediately reverse right back the way I came, when you throw a shoulder yo thrie chest, and act like its Ann accident, theyll stop following you. Trust me bc if they are following you, they’ll be quick to try to see your hands as you round an end of an aisle… maybe that’s a move thieves make to quickly pocket something not sure, but it works. I assume it will also work with a law enforcement tale while on foot. Or eith a vehicle but who wants to sacrifice their vehicle; I would but that’s me and I’ve experienced the criminal methods law enforcement take with a target they are surveilling.
    Again, I am familiar with surveillance from the military, and I can guarantee that at no time will you catch me without my head on a swivel. This is paramount, BE AWARE OF THAT WHICH IS AROUND YOU. This should be average human behavior I believe anyway. Thered be a lot less crap in the world, but…
    I’m always aware of my surroundings, aware of what the norm is in my day to day environments whatever they be. In unknown territory, maintaining a high level of awareness on your surroundings can help alert you to anything out of the ordinary, even if you have no idea what ordinary is for wherever you are at the time. An advantage to this is that if you are unfortunately the target of a stalker, serial killer, etc… the harder you are to collect info to form a profile on, the less likely theyll go through the trouble of trying.
    Back to ‘tails’…
    Deploying a method that is time honored, tested, most recommended and highly trusted by many in the military as well as civilian sector is the TEDD method; Time, Environment, Distance, Demeanor.
    If anyone is reading this, research this method if you feel you are under physical surveillance and I guarantee it will alert you if you are right or if you are simply paranoid.
    The information in this blog is good solid information. If you ever do suspect yourself to be under surveillance by a physical tail; whether it be on foot or by vehicle, there are several things you can do to force what I call a revelation, or in a vehicle I refer to it as setting up a ‘revelation road’ (that’s mine by the way guys, dont steal it lol).
    You know better than anyone your daily travel routine, and if under active surveillance, potentially law enforcement or worse, an attacker/stalker will soon know this routine as well. Before venturing out to work, the store, or on a drive you often take, possibly the night before, take a map, piece of paper, etc… and draw out your route, doesnt have to be yo the level of acceptance by a cartographer, just a quickly drawn line including turns, stops, etc…
    Now mark the points or stretches of this route where you believe you are being followed or watched.
    Next, research or bring from memory any side streets, routes that run parallel, deadends, etc… parallel side roadd to you normal route are the best as theyll provide the best view of the target, not too far off in distance though, 25 yards is perfect. These will be your potential revelation roads.
    What I always liked to do just prior to my preselected reveal points is to make a series of turns (this is most effective if they are following you, you know they are following, and it is near the beginning of the collection period in surveillance upon you, as toward the beginnings they will make these few turns as they may fear losing you causing them more work, but they wont follow you for too many turns as not to get noticed). I would do this to make sure that they wouldnt just follow me as I turn off onto my revelation detour, if that happens it defeats the purpose, you’ll not be able to see them from preferably a side, parallel profile. That’s the whole point of this, to get a good view of their vehicle, make, model, color, etc..
    This achieves a few things; it allows you to get a better description of the surveillance vehicle, I’d there are any identifying details thatd separate it from a million other vehicles exactly like it. Also this will give you a very valuable view of the drivers behavior, most importantly, their Demeanor. If an investigator goes ‘hot’ you will most likely receive a reaction of someone pissed off, staring at you unnaturally, and then you will know for sure when you no longer see that vehicle for at least a day or two, maybe longer. They must ‘cool down’ once they are noticed.
    The higher level of surveillance, the greater the reaction, I’ve noticed anyway; which is weird because one would think more professionalism would be at a higher level of surveillance due simply to the ‘agent’s being much better resourced in terms of training and equipment available to them as they draw from a much larger budget for such things.
    I’ve been tailed by the Feds, not because of my own doings; well it was a result of my rights violations claims, but the surveillance befell an extended family member as local surveillance found something that had to be handed over to a higher level of enforcement.
    These guys are professionals and are very difficult to spot many times, especially the larger the population you find yourself in. Do not let that discourage you though, because no matter what side your on, we are all human and subject to the same innate drives as any one else. Humans are creatures of habit, we crave routine, and this tale will slip out for all to see the first chance it gets.
    With the feds, you will have to become way more involved in active counter surveillance 100% of the time than for any other level of law enforcement. They have a nearly limitless width to the leeway given to them, and many times can and will violate the same laws most enforcement agencies are sworn to protect in order to get a proper profile on you.
    With them, I’ve encountered drones, which is an illegal method of gathering information and is not permissible in a court of law last I knew. Nevertheless, I’ve watched one watching me as it hovered outside the big bay window I have in my bedroom. I was surprised at the stealth of these things. I mean I have a couple high end drones costing over1K each and you could hear their motors whine if it was 500ft over your head. This one only made a low hum, couldve mistaken it for the wind or something if I hadn’t been sitting in mor room in the dark spring on the surveillance team in the van on a side road, across the empty field by my house. I took it as a way for them to say to me… wow, your high powered FLIR spotter scope is cool, but…. lookie here lol.
    That’s all I have to say here even though there is so much more to it really put this into perspective.
    Someone who has never been followed will never know the immense stress it places on a person. Immediately it reaches into the sense of rights you have, whether god given, constitutional, etc… it can rob a person of the confidence they had to interact within society, eat away at your self esteem and make you crazy wondering why you are of interest. I guess some would know why, because they did something to warrant it, but still it is NO FUN…
    At least by becoming active in watching the watchers, you may be able to gain a feeling of control over the situation. Good luck no matter how you react.
    You all take care out there, keep your head on a swivel, and remain aware of your surroundings af all times and you’ll be good to go.
    Thanks

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