How to Know if You’re Under Police Surveillance
There’s probably nothing worse than having that uneasy feeling of being watched. Even doubly so if you believe that law enforcement is surveilling you.
Sadly, while they can often get around your privacy rights through warrants that allow them direct access to your devices, you can sometimes still tell that you’re under surveillance. The tips and tricks we have below should help you identify if you might be under surveillance, and even how to keep your privacy security.
Physical Tracking & Surveillance
Following You Around
This may seem like a common trope from the movies, but the truth is that Law Enforcement has become really adept at following people around this way. That’s especially the case if the person isn’t really expecting it or considering the idea of being tracked.
The best way to keep an eye out for this is to see if you’re constantly seeing the same type of car in the same color and even the same license plate. The trick of taking 2 or 3 right turns you wouldn’t normally take is a good one to see if you’re still being followed around or not.
This can be difficult if they’ve assigned a team of 2 or 3, depending on the budget, so the best thing is to try and look out for loitering that you wouldn’t otherwise expect.
Placing Tracking Devices
Another common tactic is planting a transmitter somewhere hidden in your car so that they can track where you are at all times. You may remember a case from 2010 where somebody found an FBI tracking device on their car and is actually surprisingly common for people to find these bugs, as in the case of the man who was charged with theft for removing tracking devices.
There’s no easy or quick way to find these or have an indicator that you’re being tracked, other than doing a thorough search of the underside of your car. Don’t do this though unless you’re actually worried about being tracked, as it’s a lot of work to carry out, and not necessarily safe.
New Things in Your Neighbourhood
This may very well surprise you, but police are more than happy to change or replace things on the street if they can get a device in there. For example, they may place a camera inside a street lamp where it isn’t obvious to see. Another place is inside a hollowed-out leg of a bench, or even a fire hydrant.
If there are things in your neighborhood that have been changed or renewed in some way when they shouldn’t be, that might be a sign that you (or somebody near you) are under surveillance.
While not directly a tracking technique, an audio recording device can clue the listener in on your plans and your routines.
This usually takes the form of planting physical devices in and around your home. For example: Inside lamps, light fixtures, electrical outlets, or even baseboards. Look out for any of these things being out of place, discoloration from being moved, or generally seeming ‘off’.
One thing that may seem weird but actually is worth considering is if you’ve recently had a break-in but nothing was stolen. This likely means that law enforcement broke in to place a listening device, as they have no interest in stealing any of your items (or at least any attempt at such will be minimal at best.)
For more details, checkout our article on signs of video surveillance.
Mobile Phone Tracking
Probably one of the easiest ways to track you is through your phone. It essentially already does all the hard work as it has an internal GPS tracker, as well as being a repository of all your calls and messages. As such, smartphones tend to be one of the first vectors of attack for law enforcement to track.
The best sign of this kind of surveillance is if your phone’s battery suddenly starts getting depleted much faster. Any application that runs in the background is going to draw power, and that power has to come from somewhere: your battery. As such, a battery that is emptying faster than normal is a sign of being monitored.
Unknown Background Apps
An issue for both your PC and your phone, one thing to look out for is background apps that shouldn’t necessarily be there. These can sometimes be installed when you aren’t around or through another application and are an easy entry-point for tracking or rooting software.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to always check what applications are running in the background to make sure you aren’t being spied on.
That being said, keep in mind that operating systems have a variety of background tasks and applications you may not be aware of, so be sure to check online before killing any process.
One of the most recent insidious devices to be available to law enforcement, ‘Stingrays’, also known as ‘IMSI Catchers’ and ‘Cell-Site Simulators’, allow law enforcement to completely bypass the warrant system to gain access to your mobile data.
Essentially how these devices work is that they pretend to be a normal cell tower and essentially force your smartphone to connect to them. Because of how phones work, that means that they now gain immediate access to your GPS location, any numbers you call or call you, and even any text messages you send back and forth.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear way of knowing if law enforcement are using a Stingray near you since they can look like anything.
Most notably a truck
But can also be hidden to look like a tree or cactus, which you won’t notice from far away enough
Even worse, there seem to be Stingrays that are literally hand-held
As such, the best thing you can do in this scenario is to be proactive about your smartphone usage.
For example, don’t take it anywhere that might get you into trouble. Don’t use it for sending or receiving sensitive texts, emails, or phone calls. Better yet, if you can, get yourself a burner phone and use that instead.
As you can see, law enforcement has a lot of tools at their disposal to keep track of you. Unfortunately, short of living completely off the grid, there’s not a lot you can do except make their life difficult. Also, do your best to be aware of your rights and have a lawyer ready to be called on.