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How to not be spotted: A Private Investigator’s Guide to Blending In

  • November 26, 2018
  • by PInow Staff
  • Articles

A successful investigator is able to remain undercover and unnoticed so that they can collect useful evidence to support their client’s claim. Blending in with the surrounding population or daily activity is necessary so that the individual under surveillance does not become suspicious and thus change their own actions.

Investigators should take extreme caution to expose their true purpose or else the investigation could be ruined. Here are some tips to stay undiscovered.

A Quick Click

Leaning out of your car window to snap a photo is undoubtedly suspicious. Hauling a large camera and taking photos of unwarned individuals can cause alarm. When you are collecting photographic or video evidence, discretely snap a quick photo instead of pausing for an extended period of time. If your case requires constant recording or frequent photographs, consider investing in a hidden camera. If you are in a setting where taking photos look extremely out-of-place, opt for a phone camera instead. Smartphones can often take similar-quality photographs while drawing less attention.

The Right Distance

Close proximity to the suspect may seem beneficial, however, you will want to avoid being within several feet of the individual as you will risk being identified. If the subject spots the investigator multiple times they will begin to recognize them. The subject may confront the investigator or ultimately seek to avoid them, perhaps destroying the possibility of collecting future evidence. Instead of getting too close, take advantage of your camera’s zoom feature to avoid being recognized and maintain a safe distance.

Part of the Crowd

Distance is not the only factor that plays into finding the perfect spot. Investigators will want to blend into the population. Before you travel to a location for a stakeout, do a Google search of the address and see if there are any coffee shops, parks, or parking lots nearby. Consider what regular people do in that area and how you can appear like another civilian going about their daily routine.

Bring something that would keep a normal person preoccupied when you are stationed at a spot for a long period of time. People won’t stay in the same spot without a reason or entertainment. Bring a book, laptop, or lunch to validate why you are lingering.

Research, Don’t Follow

Don’t blatantly follow your subject, instead, research their neighborhood, home, and office. Not only will people notice the same face, they will remember cars that constantly park nearby or follow them down streets. You decrease the change of blowing your cover if you prepare for the most effective area to surveil. Ask your client if they have any information that will aid your investigation or otherwise, search online. Social media and public records are a great start to establish frequently visited locations. If you have little information on where your subject typically goes, consider alternating with another investigator and different cars. This will lessen the chance of being noticed.

Investigators should also consider purchasing a car that is not flashy and popular in their service area. Commonly-owned cars are less memorable and therefore less leery.

Believable Backstory

If your cover is ever in question, have a cover story explaining why you are there. Don’t be extravagant as that may cause even more apprehension. Instead, choose something believable and every day. Think of reasons why you are there: picking up a child from school, scouting out real estate, or even lost and looking for directions. If they catch you with a camera in hand, don’t shy away and pretend to hide it as that causes alarm and may acknowledge you collecting information. Instead, research why people use cameras daily. Some possible reasons are taking an adult photography class, you are visiting from out of town and taking touristy photos, you are a professional portrait photographer and need to test out various lighting and locations.

Online Investigations

In addition to physical observations, gathering online information through databases and public records is a great way to collect information without cause for concern. Not only does it lower your chance of being caught but also reduces the amount of time you are physically surveilling.

Are you looking for a discrete private investigator? Consider searching PInow’s network of local investigators to get to the bottom of your case!

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