Using Cover During Surveillance

Best Trick to Using Cover During Surveillance

Surveillance Cover stories
Private investigators often use cover when conducting surveillance, and these are a few of the things we’ve learned through trial and error.

Proper planning is essential to a successful surveillance operation, and part of that planning is the use of cover. Is it needed? What will work best for the situation? What tools do you need?

We’ve sat in apartment complexes where it’s easy to blend in without any cover, and we have sat along the sides of roads where everyone that passes stops to see if you’re okay -and what you are doing.

The thing about cover is that you have to be able to sell it without trying too hard. If you don’t do enough they won’t believe you, but if you push it on them too much they will get suspicious. For example, simply saying you are conducting a survey and handing them a generic business card may not be enough.  However, a sign on the side of your vehicle, a traffic vest laying on your front dash, and an orange traffic light on the top of your car may be enough that they won’t even stop to ask you what you are doing.

Conducting a survey is a common cover story for detective agency. To make it convincing here are a few things you can do.

Set up a website- Sites like GoDaddy and WordPress have inexpensive domains and websites that can quickly be set up with a fictitious business.

Get a phone number- You can set up a phone number for the cover business by using a drop phone, an answering service, or using one of the various apps available. For Android try Line Two, Burner, or Sideline. We use a service called Answer India. You can set up an account for Rs.1000 and they will answertwenty phone calls -which should be plenty. The benefit is that if someone is suspicious, when they call, a real person will answer the phone in a professional manner.

Get some props- Depending on your cover, this could be traffic vest, cones, signs, orange safety lights, etc. I have a fake ID badge on a lanyard that I hang from my rear-view mirror. Anyone that stops to ask what I am doing can clearly see it. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

Get signs for your vehicle- You can have professionally made magnetic signs for your vehicle throughcompanies like Vista Print. They are relatively inexpensive, but if you are on a budget, you can print you own sign on a piece of printer paper, self laminate it, and stick on some magnets. The self
laminating sheets and magnets can be picked up at Wal-Mart for less than Rs.500. Make sure the sign includes that website and phone number you previously set up for the cover business.

Business cards- Pick up some blank business cards sheets so you can print business cards as needed from your office. You’ll want the phone number and website to your business, and a fake name. I use my real first name and a fake last. This way I don’t mess up and say my real first name, and then hand out a business card with a different name.

When someone does stop to ask you what you are doing, sell your cover and stick to it. Most likely a quick explanation of what you are doing will be enough, but that is not always the case. They may ask you what kind of survey you are doing, or why you are doing the survey? Be prepared for every possible question so you can provide a quick answer without thinking. If asked what the “traffic survey” is for you could respond with they are considering widening the road, or adjusting the speed limit. Another option is to play dumb. You could say you are not sure, and that the company contracts to do surveys for various reasons – all you know is that they pay you to sit and be bored all day. If you start complaining about your “job” they are most likely to leave you alone.

Be sure not to oversell your cover. Talking too much can come off as you are trying to convince the person instead of simply being honest.

Be nice and smile. That may be hard for some people, but it will get you farther. If you are nice and smile people are more likely to believe you, and not see you as a threat. If you are rude, and give the impression you want to be left alone, people may become suspicious no matter what you say.

There are obviously many other cover stories that can be used. This is just the one my company tends to use on rural surveillance where blending in is difficult, and everyone wants to know if you need help. One other story we’ve yet to use, but will in the future, is that we are looking for an employee
that is supposed to be in the area conducting door to door surveys, but the company believes he/she is not actually working and lying about the results.

Then asked them if they’ve seen a white car in the area with a sign on the door with the company logo? Hand them your card and ask them to call you if a survey tech stops by their house anytime in the next few days. You may also add that you will be in the area for the next couple days.

Be creative with your cover stories, and think about how you would see things from the others perspective. Would you believe the story?

The last tip- don’t tell people you are waiting for someone if you are going to be in the area for several more hours, and eight hours the next day.
This will look very suspicious as time passes and you are still there.

You don’t always need cover, but sometimes hiding in plain sight is the best option.

Thanks and have a nice day

Forensic Detective
New Delhi, India

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