Monday, June 9, 2014

Tip of the Day: Yes, You Should Acquire Skills on How to Determine if You Are Being "Tailed"

I hate to rain on your parade if you truly believe that someone is not following you when you travel abroad, yet whether your travel is business-related, tourism, working for a humanitarian agency, being a foreign correspondent, etc., but yes it does happen...and frequently.

First of all, no, it isn't exciting that you're being "tailed" the host government, a hostile intelligence service legitimately operating under diplomatic protection or worse, criminals and terrorists!

If you're being followed by any of the above folks, this is not good news!  Please don't feel flattered.

Actually, it's really, really bad news because whatever your role in life, the fact that someone has determined that you're important enough to spend human assets on to figure out what you're up to, suggests that your personal security awareness is insufficient.

The next part is a bit "tricky."

The first thing I would do, proactively, is to find out the full name and title of the person responsible for "security issues" at your nearest embassy or consulate. At this point, though, don't call anyone. Depending on the diplomatic mission, this task may be relatively easy...or challenging.

If you're a US citizen, the task is relatively easy, as all US embassies and many large consulates have a functionary called the "Regional Security Officer." This would be the person you may need to talk some point.

If you're a citizen of another nation, several titles may get you to the right person:

-- Police Attaché

-- Security Attaché

-- Security Officer

Usually, any of the above should get you to the proper officer.

When I said "tricky," I was referring to whether you have actually confirmed that you believe you're under surveillance.

In all honesty, the above statement is much, much different from "I think I'm being 'tailed' in the absence of detailed facts, descriptions, how surveillants are dressed, etc."

First and foremost, the biggest concern is confirming that you're being "tailed" without those actually tracking your movements you being aware of it.

If handled incorrectly, the actions you take to confirm surveillance could cause the person or team you suspect to shut down their operations, potentially resulting in damage that is difficult to assess.

Moreover, the surveillance could continue using different operatives, without ever knowing the purpose of the surveillance.

If the surveillance is a precursor to a kidnapping or crime, your preemptive action could cause the surveillants to move up their timetable, potentially resulting in catastrophic results.

COMMENT: Here are some steps to take very discreetly. 

If on foot, stop occasionally to look into a store window. Use this pause to determine whether the person you suspect of following you stops...or simply walks on. 

Do this several times to confirm whether the same person always stops or whether other surveillants focus in on your movements. 

If in a vehicle, drive around the block several times to see whether the driver of a suspect vehicle continues to follow you. 

If so, try to memorize the trailing vehicle’s license plate without being obvious about it. 

Vary your routes and times of departure and arrival to corroborate whether suspected surveillants remain with you.

Do not attempt to out-run or “slip up” a surveillant, as this could make the situation worse. 
If you believe you are the target of surveillance, do not drive to your home, as the person following you may not yet know where you live. 

If have been able to confirm without "giving away the farm" that you are under surveillance: Make an appointment to meet with the security representative at your embassy or consulate. 

If you are calling after-hours, ask to speak to the embassy duty officer. 

If you are working abroad, report the matter verbally and in writing to your employer’s security representative or general manager. 

Never think you are being silly to report a suspected surveillance. Remember that our instincts often tell us what to do well before our brain has figured it out. Trust your instincts. 

The target that remains ignorant of his or her surroundings or succumbs to denial often moves from a bad situation to a much worse situation. 

Practice proactive counter-surveillance by doing the following: Be predictably unpredictable in high-threat environments. 

Avoid “choke-points,” a place you can always be expected to be at a particular time. 

Vary the routes you take and your departure and arrival times in environments in which you sense the risk of surveillance to be high.

Be observant of people around you; pay attention to abnormal or suspicious behavior. 

When driving, use rear-view and side mirrors periodically to examine what is going on behind you. 

In many cases, foreigners leaving restaurants have been followed by criminals who then commit a home invasion, which can place the entire family at risk.