Make Your Case: How To Run a Self-Surveillance - ITS Tactical

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Make Your Case: How To Run a Self-Surveillance

By Christopher Gooding

Survivalists, preppers and even security personal can be prone to the same shortcomings they often preach to the unprepared — making a case for themselves.

Too often we become obsessed with being up to date with technology and skills-sets that we forget to look at ourselves. Sure, we know why we do the things we do, but what message are we projecting to others? Are we too transparent? Instead of being truly covert — the height of preparedness or surveillance — are we being terribly overt?

Self Surveillance 01

Pride can be a flame that draws unwanted attention. There’s nothing covert about the neighbors saying, “Looks like John’s bought enough food for two Armageddon’s,” or “Look’s like Mark’s on security detail again.”

It’s not just about staying under the radar; it’s about taking stock of what you’ve been doing and that’s why it’s important to take a week of self-reflection and case yourself.

Start Your Day with Breakfast

The moment you get up tells a lot about yourself. Do you eat breakfast at home; how do you park; what route do you take to work; do you buy coffee from the same shop every day on your way to work?

Case yourself like you would a suspect. What type of dress do you wear and what kind of image do you project? Your morning routine leads to a lot of deductions, useable by the enemy or opportunists. We all know we need to change up our morning routines just in case, but if you’ve fallen into a rut or simply become comfortable this can be the wake up call you need to bust up your pattern.

Gadgetry and Gizmos

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the technology age, it’s that people sure do love having stuff.But there should be a time and place about bragging about what you’ve got.

To the unscrupulous neighbor or blog reader, it’s all part of a mental shopping list they’re creating to call on when the opportunity presents itself. Most of us are probably guilty of making mental notes of things we would pilfer if the need presented itself, so take stock of what you have and who knows about it.

Cash is King

Money advice and buying habits are best discussed by accountants and bankers. We will offer, however, when it comes to spending your money and leaving as few traces behind as possible, put your money on the barrelhead.

If you haven’t already, take a closer look at your credit card or bank statement — and don’t just look at the bottom number to see if you have anything left in your account at the end of the month. Every one of those purchases or deposits creates an easily deciphered pattern if it finds it’s way into the wrong hands. Friday nights out on the town with the boys means nobody’s home until midnight. Frequent Monday-to-Friday visits to the fast food joint is a pretty good indication no one’s paying attention to your work computer at the office; return visits to the hardware store might mean you’re making enough racket at home to not hear who’s moving around in the backyard.

Using cash gives you the only piece of paperwork you need, proof of purchase. Using debit or credit creates paperwork announcing you have proof of purchase, so cut the redundancy and tighten up your paper trail.


Somebody BlabbedLoose Lips Sink Ships

The greatest threat to your security is yourself. Whether its using social media or meeting someone for the first time, we can give up a frightening amount of information away in a very short period of time. Marital status, kids, where we grew up or went to school used to be civil points of conversation but are now nuggets of information we don’t want to in the wrong hands. And God forbid if you tell the wrong person you go to the Dominican Republic every March on holidays. You might come home to an empty home — literally.

Pay Attention to What You Give Up

Safe topics for making conversation can be your job — if you’re allowed to talk about your work — or a “safe” hobby, like woodworking, sports or history.

And if all else fails, create a throwaway profile. Really dig into something that is not necessarily important at first blush— cooking, gardening, maintaining a salt water aquarium — and learn enough to pass yourself as a budding amateur. This becomes your first-contact profile until you can evaluate someone.

What you decide to give up after that is up to you.

For the dating man, there’s something to be said about being the guy who is passionate about his gold fish collection one day, to being a karate black belt who can shoot the petals off a flower at 75 yards and also knows how to administer wilderness first aid the next.

Bringing it All Together

James Bond was an international man of mystery, but he was also a respected socialite. No one truly knew Jason Bourne, including Jason Bourne and there was a clear boundary between work and home for Ethan Hunt.

Balancing what some would call a double life is a struggle and holding back while being affable doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us but throughout the day there’s many opportunities to practice and hone your skills.

Pick your moments. When the barista at the coffee shop asks how your weekend was, she doesn’t need to know you shot the best grouping in your life at the range. Maybe this is a good time to tell her about your new goldfish.

More than likely, though, it’s the perfect time to just say “good,” pay her in cash and leave it at that as you walk to work using a different route than the one you took Friday.

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Please welcome Christopher Gooding  as a contributor on ITS Tactical.  Christopher is a Canadian survivalist who hates finding his picture in a Google Images search.

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  • Tony

    Hey guys, I read your blog religiously, and I am a site member. I think you guys do a great job putting this material out, and I agree with a lot of your posts. That being said, I wanted to ask, in all honesty- At what point does preparedness cross over into paranoia? I hope I’m not coming across rudely as it’s not my intent. It just seems to me that some of these things cross over into “why bother” territory. Making up hobbies and changing driving routes and watching reciepts…I can see some things being beneficial, but where do you draw the line? I will admit I sometimes leave out information when meeting people (although I am not that vocal or social in the first place) but I don’t really change routes or use strictly cash or any of that. Anyway, good read, and I’m curious as to your response. Keep up the good work!

    • Jason Dellinger

      I’ve asked myself this question several times and the most obvious is “It’s not paranoia if they really ARE out to get you”.

      After several credit card frauds, we bought a shredder for bills, credit card apps, insurance statements etc. I thought it was a little paranoid until my wife took our dogs out early one morning and a guy in a van was rummaging through all the city trash containers on our street. He took off when he saw her.

      Thinking from a man’s perspective, it’s hard to justify things like changing routines, routes, etc. But when we examine the situation from a female perspective, it becomes more relevant, especially in the case of stalkers/rapists who many times follow their victims and key on patterns.

      I’ve got some great friends that I trust completely, but I don’t know who THEIR friends are, so I’m careful about what I show/tell them, especially these days with social networking and mass communication. In other words, they can instantly tell a LOT of people I don’t know something that I have no control over.

      We have to remember that criminals are opportunistic and our first and best defense against becoming victims is to remove as much opportunity as possible.

  • LongHaul

    Thanks for the article and welcome to ITS Tactical!

  • Joe

    Great article. Definitely agree with this. One of my techniques regarding spending is to take out the amount of money I need for the month in cash. This forces me to not use debit or credit.

  • Stephen Douglass

    Self awareness and evaluation is always important. Things change, people create habits or tells often without realizing they have one. We have done this sort of thing at work. Another thing to do is pick a friend who knows you (and knows what you do for a living) and have him shadow or tail you for a day. How many times can he ding you for having done something? How many times did you catch them in their act of surveillance?

    Then flip the rolls. Can you effectively tail them? How easy or hard was it? How many tells did they give away? How many times did they

    One glaring flaw in my daily “routine” is the act of taking the kids to school. There are only two direct routes from my home to choose from. The act of “never take the same route twice” becomes limited to ” how do I break up a direct travel route routine” when your choices are severely limited? Answer: break it up into smaller, more unpredictable patterns.

    At least in my line of work, my routine is the least predictable thing I have. I do not hold bankers hours, my “office” away is with me, and I rarely know from one day to the next where I am or what I am doing. Home life is an entirely different situation. There are repeat places I do need to be at specific times, this leaves a weak link in the chain. Being aware of it, and getting creative, helps lesson the impact that may have.

  • James Gooding

    Hey guys, I am not a troller and have kept up with ITS for a while now so the comments I am about to make are based on observations from past and current articles. I decided to post now because I think the site has shifted toward a direction that looks more weekend warrior and post apocalyptic preparation than gear review. I am pretty sure the contributor “Christopher Gooding” is an ITS employee the viewers know all to well and who has created a new alias for himself. The movie quotes and other tell tale signs are a dead giveaway. I do not disagree with being very aware of your surroundings and having proper protection against threats you encounter or could encounter on a daily basis, but how many people need to start their day by preparing alternative routes to work or worrying about enemies who are out to get you.

    I quote from the article ” If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the technology age, it’s that people sure do love having stuff.But there should be a time and place about bragging about what you’ve got. To the unscrupulous neighbor or blog reader….” and it goes on, but is that not ITS? A blog for unscrupulous readers who like to promote the ITS logo by buying liberty bottles, sticker sheets, ITS flags and so forth? Does that not contradict the article? Where is the discreet message in posting your name and emblem on everything you make? What looks more suspicious or even more appealing to a thief, a hug sum of cash pulled from the wallet or a debit/credit card?

    How many regular everyday people run there daily lives like a PSD operation or like all the actors MR.Gooding referenced “Ethan Hunt, 007, Bourne?” I know this appears to be a bash session but there is a difference between prepared and paranoid. I found the article on the threats Mrs.Black encountered at “target” very amusing. Why such paranoia? Tell the lady or man to get lost, its 6 in the afternoon and you are surrounded by a lot of people. There was no physical threat there at all. Again paranoia vs prepared.

    ITS should reconsider going back to gear reviews and things that might actually benefit the everyday person and not the paranoid weekend warrior.

    • While you’re certainly entitled to your opinion on the other matters, I take exception to you accusing us of lying to our readers and creating fake accounts. I’d also like to mention that your IP address is logged and “James Gooding” appears to be the second name that’s posted here associated with that IP address.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • Christopher Gooding

      Hey James, thanks for the comment – and Tony’s, too (dude’s got a good handle on being balanced). Got to admit. I’m not an employee of ITS, nor did I receive anything from my submission, short of the opportunity of sharing a few ideas for people to ponder.
      I’d offer, its not paranoia, but rather a suggestive caution. I suspect, if one person could figure out your IP address, another could, too.
      After that, I guess maybe they really are after you, huh? .

  • Steve B.

    I cringe when I think about the preppers who appeared on a certain popular show and the situation they could be in during a disaster after they broadcast everything they have on national TV. I imagined people saying the same thing every episode, “food source noted”.

  • Real Name

    I am a huge fan of this site. That being said some of this seems like complete nonsense. I agree that there needs to be a base layer of OPSEC in all areas of daily life but, if someone finds out you go to Starbucks or Target it doesn’t turn into the movie Taken. This brings to mind all the tough guys wearing TAD gear and all the high end tactical brands of the day, when you ask these guys what they do “I work for the DOD”. Have you ever thought that wearing Arcteryx and 55o cord puts you in the same uniform as all the other bearded Kung Fu/SPEAR fighting patriots? I don’t need a buddy of mine to tell me I’m out of place if I’m rocking 5.11 and velcro everything.

  • decepticon

    You can also practice a little self surveilance in cyberworld. Google your name and those of your immediate family. Is it relatively easy to determine where you all work, go to school, etc.? Check your address with Google maps. I have heard from people who were horrified to find that the photo that pulled up actually had a recognizable image of them inside their home, clearly obvious through a window. MapQuest yourself. Can I easily plot a path to your front door if I have the right address?
    Do photos of winning school teams ID your kid by name and indicate which team and school? Could I then go to the school’s website to learn exactly which days a week that team practices late?
    Does your county have online plat maps or property tax information that would enable me to do some “none of my businesss” business like finding our how much your taxes are and when you last paid them? Or worse, show me the outline of your entire property, complete with the location of every building there?
    That’s just the surface layer, with everything of public record. None of that requires even the tiniest bit of hacking ability.
    If you live a lifestyle that requires the level of OPSEC Gooding describes, the I certainly hope you are already following the precautions outlined here. You should be able to write this article and more. For the rest of us, while it may be interesting and kind of fun to try to surveil ourselves once, just to learn how to tighten up our security if need be, it would be impractical and probably invite more notice than not to be constantly taking circuitous routes and looking over your shoulder.

  • Frank P.

    Thanks for posting this guys. This isn’t paranoia, it’s just being prepared.

    I used to live on the Texas/Mexico border. Some of the very techniques described in this article we (my wife and I) used when I was dating my wife and had to cross the border see her. Kidnappings are rampant and the drug cartel murders (they always happened, just never received the same media attention due to the number of killings occurring now) were barely starting at the time . She never took the same route home, I was always on the phone with her, sometimes she would drive around a block a couple times so to make sure no one was tailing her. When she would get home she would take note of any cars that looked out of place, or if there was anyone sitting in the vehicles. While driving through town we would constantly be looking at escape routes should the SHTF and a shootout were to occur.

    A couple months back my wife and I were at a gas station near our home and an individual asked to use my phone. The guy was out of place for the type of neighborhood we live in and he seemed nervous/off. I remember a post (not sure if it was this site) about a similar situation. I snapped. Long story short I figured out what he was really trying to do (steal my phone) and I squared up with him ready to beat his face in. He played stupid and walked off only to be picked up by another person waiting in a truck. I am now in the process of getting my CCW license.

    Keep up the great work guys.

  • ChrisB

    I doubt I’ll ever want to go into all that the author suggests. (Cash only? I’m not giving up my reward points!) But the reminder to think about these things — especially who you tell what about you — is always useful Thanks and welcome!

  • Matt

    Great to see a fellow Canuck on here!

  • Lulz

    Gonna write a rebuttal here.

    If you drive to work every day, and you plan to live in the same house and work the same job for more than a few weeks, there are only so many routes you can take, so patterns will be set, whether you like it or not. You are less likely to encounter a vehicular ambush than you are to encounter a deadly car accident. After IEDs, road accidents are the second highest source of injury and death in the warzones. I suggest identifying the safest route, the best time to travel it, and keeping a rigid routine. Using cash to avoid credit card tracking is silly. In exchange for being less traceable by a large corporation/government that probably does not care about you, you are a juicier target for some trayvon looking for loot. Put useful limits on your credit cards, and keep in touch with your bill so that when it inevitably gets stolen, you catch it quickly and get your money back.

    The more routinized your behavior, especially if you are in a rural area, the easier it will be to spot something ‘out of the ordinary’, giving you warning that you may not have if you are randomly alternating the same three routes. The more trustworthy people you have aware of your activities, the more likely you are to have allies when something goes wrong.

    If I go to the dominican republic every march, my friends will know I’m gone, because otherwise, they would wonder. My house has a number of technical systems in place to alert me, and others of my choosing to problems. So, I may be hungover in the caribbean, not checking my email when the theives drive a moving van intfucker o my driveway, triggering an email alert, but my homies at day jobs who totally said they’d look after my shit? Yeah, they’re calling the cops for me. If I trusted the wrong person, and I get robbed, well, I got them on candid camera, and they know it.

    No social media? Come on, being rich is the best way to save yourself from life’s tribulations, and social media is an awesome business tool. If I were cool enough to have a reality tv show under my full editorial control, I totally would. Good luck arresting me for ‘contempt of cop’ or whatever while I’m having the whole exchange videotaped, and have my lawyer on speed dial.

    • Gino

      Good points. You need to write an article.

  • Mel

    Love some of the suggestions. Nice to see a fellow Canuck writing this material. It’s certainly made me a little mire conscious of my habits.

  • nDjinn

    Yes, I stopped using the trees in the front yard to practice throwing my tommyhawk. On a serious note, in day-to-day life it doesn’t matter too much unless you are in a high risk position. I make a good go of keeping my trade and field craft up to date and in check but there are only so many ways I can drive to the store. In my life at worst I could be targeted for a home invasion which is a problem here, but I doubt that as I don’t display any real risk factors (but I am prepared) . Here in Alaska between most “towns” there is only one legal road. I would love to try using an alternate route north out of Anchorage, but I can’t get permission from JBER, the Alaska Railroad or DNR to drive off road or overland as I might in case of the need to evacuate.

  • Nickers

    Everyone knows goldfish are freshwater fish, your salt water aquarium would kill them pretty immediately.

    I kid of course, but one thing that drives me crazy are people that tell you their entire survival and E & E plan. Sure I know a bit about that, but I know enough that I’m not going to share it with you.

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