Somebody following you while walking can be a scary experience regardless of whether it is happening during the day or night. After all, you can never know what that person might be up to.
If that were your neighbor just following the same route home as you, that wouldn’t usually be such a big deal, but it might not always be your neighbor.
Many people will get really worried and start panicking, which is completely normal, but the problem often lies in the fact that most people are not prepared for what to do in such a situation.
In the interest of keeping you safe, we thought it would be important to share some tips on how to handle getting followed while walking. While this can be a scary situation, it’s important to remember that there are steps you can take to protect yourself and get out of the situation safely.
First off, trust your instincts. If you think someone is following you (whether or not you’re aware of any specific reason for the suspicion), there’s a good chance that something is up. Don’t try to shush that inner voice—it’s often right!
The reality is that by following some basic principles and having a sound strategy in mind, you may prevent something bad from happening.
Below you will find what to do if somebody is following you while walking.
Check Your State and Local Laws
To stay one step ahead, make sure to understand your local laws regarding stalking and being followed. That way, you will have a better understanding of what you will need to do if somebody is following you.
If somebody follows you while you are walking without a legitimate reason, this can be considered a crime.
In many areas, it is illegal to follow somebody while walking with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, or intimidate.
If you feel harassed, intimidated, oppressed, prosecuted, or in danger by the person following you, this can be considered a crime of stalking and a criminal offense. As a result, if they are following you unlawfully, you may also be able to contact the police and press charges or even demand a restraining order depending on the local laws.
In some instances, it may be difficult to prove in court that you have indeed been followed, depending on local laws.
For example, in some states, you have only to prove that you have been followed by that person, while in others, you will also need to prove that they intended to do something illegal.
Also, in some states, this has to occur more than once to be considered a criminal offense, while in other states, following somebody is considered illegal the first time it happens.
Furthermore, in some states, following somebody is considered illegal after the pursuer has been asked to stop doing it. Regardless, the law still allows you to call the police if you feel in danger and do not wish to talk to the person following you.
Remain Calm and Vigilant
If you suspect somebody is following you, it is only natural to get worried and frightened. However, do your best to stay calm and collected.
Panicking will not help you and can do you more harm than good.
Remaining calm and clear-headed will help you devise a strategy and make better decisions on how to act.
Looking nervous, stressed, or intimidated can also signal your follower that you are an easy target.
Always remain vigilant and on your guard regardless of whether you are being followed. However, be particularly mindful when passing through shady neighborhoods, unknown areas, or visiting new places alone.
Confirm That You Are Being Followed
Try to keep an eye on your surroundings, the buildings you pass, and the people you see walking nearby. If you are seeing the same people or cars multiple times, you may indeed be followed.
Remember that your pursuer may not always remain behind you but appear to go down different streets and around corners and seemingly disappear before they reappear again nearby. Some may even try to walk past you, only to wait for you to catch up to them again.
Others may play the long game and appear distracted or start playing on their phone, seemingly not paying attention to you. Maybe they will walk very slowly only to increase their pace to catch up to you after they get out of sight.
Trust your gut. Do not underestimate your instincts. In fact, listening to your gut feeling is one of the Moscow Rules, a set of rules that spies used when working undercover during the Cold War.
Do not get distracted. Although you might need to use your phone, do it at the right moment, do not do it in a way that will impact your safety.
Criminals do not always work alone. While you are focusing on the person behind you, there may be others around or in front of you that can attack you.
There are several different ways you can confirm if somebody is following you while walking:
- Pick up your pace in order to see if they will pick up their pace as well.
- Take four consecutive right or four left turns around a building or a block, essentially ending up at the same spot you left from to see if they are going to do the same thing as you.
- If there are escalators nearby, you can go up the escalators and then down just to see if they will follow you again.
All of these are great ways to find out whether somebody really is following you or not. The person following you will probably figure out what you are trying to do, and since many criminals rely on the element of surprise, this may throw them off, and they may leave.
Some people also suggest making it look as if you are tying your shoes to see if the person following you will stop and wait for you or suddenly slow their walking pace.
However, this puts you in danger because this allows the pursuer to close the distance between you two. If you decide to do something like that, ensure you are in a well-populated and safe area that is also under video surveillance.
Stay in Safe Public Areas and Try to Shake Them Off
If you are being followed while walking, it is recommended to remain in well-populated and high-traffic areas. The more people there are, the less likely it is that your pursuer will do something.
If you are in a very crowded area, your pursuer may end up losing you in the crowd. If you have a jacket, you can try taking it off, or if you keep your hair in a ponytail, you can loosen in it in order to throw the person following you off. This can be effective if you manage to get out of their line of sight for a moment.
It is recommended to go for busy and well-lit streets, especially if you are being followed by somebody while walking at night.
If you are being followed and you are not in a safe area, head towards the closest safe area possible.
Below you will find a list of the places that are generally considered safe towards which you can head if you suspect you are being followed while walking:
- Police stations
- Fire stations
- Gas stations
- Malls, shopping centers, and department stores
- Grocery stores
- Restaurants and coffee shops
- Bus and train stations
- City halls
Most of these places are very busy and often have their in-house security guards. Many also have video surveillance 24/7. But the best option is to always go to the nearest working police station.
However, keep in mind that not all of these will work 24/7, even some police stations are closed during the night, and you do not want to go to an empty building or parking lot with nobody around to help you.
Keep to streets and areas that you know. You do not want to get lost or end up in an empty back alley with no exit.
If you go to a restaurant or coffee shop, you can order something and spend some time observing what your pursuer will do. You can also go to the restroom and spend some time there to see if they will still be waiting for you when you get out. However, be careful because they may also choose to follow you to the restroom.
If you go to a bus or train station, you can make it look as if you are traveling somewhere.
Do Not Walk Back Home
Counterintuitive to what many may think, the best thing to do is not head directly to your home. Going home is not recommended because you will give away your home address to the person following you.
It is also not recommended to go to a friend or relative’s house or apartment for the same reason.
You do not want your pursuer to find out where you live because they can stalk you or case your home to break in later.
Collect Information About Your Pursuer
Regardless of whether you have already confirmed that you are being followed or still not sure, gather as much information about that person as possible. This information may be vital when talking to the police.
Pay attention and try to remember details like their age, sex, height, race, hair, eye color, build, age, and the clothes, shoes, and accessories they are wearing.
While doing that, keep an eye on your surroundings, like where you are located, what buildings you have just passed, street name, house numbers, etc. You may have to explain where you are when talking to the police, and that information will come in handy.
Although it is recommended to take as many notes of what your pursuer looks like, be careful not to look back all the time or be too obvious about it. While doing so, the person following you might decide you are onto them and leave, but they can also choose to attack you as well. Constantly looking back can also cause you to get distracted and not keep an eye on your surroundings.
Do Not Confront Your Pursuer
It is not recommended to confront the person following you. Confronting your pursuer can result in them becoming more aggressive or even attacking you.
You might hear different bits of advice from different people, for instance, like turning back and looking at the pursuer directly in the eyes, talking to them, asking them to stop following you, turning back and walking past them, threatening them, or even following them yourself.
Those strategies may work with some criminals. However, not all criminals will be phased by such behavior. And these actions can do more harm than good, as you can make it easier for your pursuer to close the distance and confront you.
Keep in mind that some people can attack you even if you are located in a densely populated area, on busy streets, or near shops, restaurants, and other venues.
Call the Authorities
If somebody is following you while walking and you feel in danger or threatened, do not hesitate to call the police or 911, informing them that you are currently being followed.
If you are in any public space or venue such as a restaurant, coffee shop, or shopping mall, you can also talk to the people working there and inform them that you are being followed by somebody and feel in danger.
It is always better to have an extra person on your side who can keep an eye out. They can also assist you in calling the police. Alternatively, you can also call a friend or relative to come and pick you up from the coffee shop or restaurant.
Do Not Assume You Are Safe
If you have managed to shake the person following you off, do not immediately assume you are safe. They may still be following you from a greater distance, or maybe one of their accomplices is following you now, waiting for you to go home or let your guard down.
Remain vigilant, keep an eye on your surroundings and the people and cars around you.
Take the longer route to your home. Walk for a little longer and keep your route unpredictable just to stay on the safe side while checking for any suspicious behavior.
Keep Your Routine Less Predictable in Future
Keep your routine and the routes you take less predictable.
Keep in mind that some criminals may be hanging around the same areas looking for victims, and despite knowing you are not an easy target, they can try to follow you again.