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Flawless Surveillance: How to Catch Them in the Act Without Tipping Them Off

Movies and pop culture have romanticized life as a Private Investigator. Nifty gadgets make surveillance activities seem effortless. The Investigator often seems to have a sixth sense, or just really great timing. One minute the case seems hopeless, and the next moment it rushes to an adrenaline-pumping conclusion.

But in the day-to-day profession of a real-life Private Investigator, there are fewer gadgets and more human talent and training involved. Rather than a sixth sense or even “good luck,” the Investigator has become a student of human nature, studying habits and recognizing patterns as they play out time and again.

As such, conducting flawless “movie style” surveillance is absolutely possible. But it is less glamorous and more practical than meets the eye. In this post, find out how professional Private Investigators can catch suspects in the act without ever once tipping the suspect off to their presence.

Tip #1: Be Forgettable.

So much of today’s culture encourages people to stand out. But this is not a desirable attribute for a successful private investigator. Rather, the Investigator strives at all moments and in all activities to be eminently forgettable.

This includes hairstyle, attire, vehicle, even personal manner – the goal is to blend in so perfectly that the simple act of observing renders them invisible.

This is one of the hands-down best ways to catch a culprit in the act without tipping them off. Being forgettable in every way gives the culprit a sense of ease and privacy so they will act freely. This is when the Investigator can move in and catch them.

Tip #2: Be Patient and Persevere.

There is little movie glamour in being a Private Investigator. Truthfully, glamour is not what an Investigator needs or wants. Rather, even the most talented Private Investigator needs patience and perseverance, plain and simple.

This can mean enduring many dull hours sitting and waiting and watching. It can mean forgoing potty breaks and snack stops in favor of staying put. Watching movies on a smart device or reading are also out. There is only the watching, the waiting and the patience to keep watching and waiting until the suspect makes an incriminating move.

Tip #3: Study the Patterns.

Many people who will never meet face to face take the same roads or subway rides to work each day. They eat at the same restaurants around the same time. They enjoy similar leisure activities on weekends.

A successful Private Investigator will take the time from day one to learn the habits and patterns of their subjects, mirroring them so that, for all intents and purposes, the Investigator’s own movements simply seem to frequently coincide with the subject’s own.

By studying the patterns up front, two things become possible: 1) The Private Investigator can blend in more seamlessly with the subject’s regular daily scene, and 2) the Investigator can notice right away when the subject makes a deviation from their regular pattern or schedule, which can help to catch them in the act without ever providing a clue they are being surveilled.

Tip #4: Stay back.

In modern western culture, one individual right that is greatly prized (and not willingly relinquished) is personal space. For this reason as well as others, professional Private Investigators learn early on not to follow a subject too closely.

Following too closely can send up red flags and even cause the subject to think they are in danger of being a victim of a crime. Keeping a healthy distance and using helps such as the zoom feature on a camera can keep the subject well in sight without the risk of red flags that might spook them.

Tip #5: Pick a strategic location.

Since much of a Private Investigator’s work requires being present to witness incriminating evidence or behavior, the importance of a selecting a strategically advantageous location cannot be emphasized enough.

With the right location, the Investigator can use the rearview and side mirrors of nearby vehicles, reflective windows on local office buildings and other inbuilt aids to keep tabs on a subject going about their daily business without revealing their own position or goals.

Tip #6: Take the help of the internet.

Yesterday’s paper trails have become today’s digital trails. If any trend has provided professional Private Investigators with an easier and even less visible method to surveil subjects, it is the internet.

But where a subject might be overly careful to cover their tracks on paper or in person, it is still all too easy to forget about the trail they may leave online. Email addresses, social media accounts, phone numbers and public records are all accessible with a bit of know-how and the right technology.

Using this nearly un-erasable digital trail is becoming one of the handiest ways that Private Investigators can catch subjects in the act without ever once showing their own hand.

Tip #7: Know when to lay low.

Finally, professional Private Investigators that are successful in their careers learn to cultivate their professional instincts as a resource and source of intuition. Sometimes this may mean an Investigator decides to back off or lay low for a time even if nothing on the surface appears to be sending out any red flags to the subject.

Just having the willingness to back off can sometimes make the difference between exposing the investigation and being able to continue the next day towards an inevitably fruitful conclusion.

There is no doubt that building a career as a professional Private Investigator can be quite rewarding. No two days on the job will ever be alike. There will always be new skills to learn and new technology to explore. Seeing wrongs put to right and questions matched up with the right answers is its own evidence of a great day’s work, as is developing a flawless surveillance system that gets the job done.

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