Class notes: How-to

How to spot a stalker

Marc Hurwitz, BA ’97 President, Crossroads Investigations

A conceptual illustration of a man sitting at a desk with a laptop computer surrounded by eyes

Illustration by Brian Stauffer/The i Spot

Interview by Jeff Klein

In this age of ubiquitous GPS tracking, security cameras and license-plate scanners, people can be forgiven if they think they’re being watched. Some of them actually are, according to Marc Hurwitz, a former CIA counterterrorism officer who is now president of Crossroads Investigations, a Miami-based private investigation and due diligence firm whose many services include tracking down stalkers.

“There are so many tools available to us as investigators to find people,” says Hurwitz, who started on his career path as an intern at the Department of State during his UB years. “There’s very little privacy.” When someone is being stalked, Hurwitz says, the culprit is usually a business rival, jilted spouse, flat-out creep—but not always. “In one case,” he says, “the Feds were following our client.”

We asked Hurwitz how you can tell if someone’s watching you, and what you can do about it.

How to spot a stalker:

Beware online lurkers
We give clients an extensive tip sheet on how to keep their social media accounts private. One tip: Never log on to or link to third-party sites (Twitter, Bing, LinkedIn) using your Facebook account—doing so shares your information with third parties. We also provide a Javascript code called InitialChatFriendsList that lets you see who’s stalking you online.

Mind your phone
These are the first questions I ask clients worried that their phones are bugged: “Is it an iPhone?” and “Has it been jailbroken?” A jailbroken iPhone means you can download apps from sources other than the Apple App Store. If an iPhone hasn’t been jailbroken, it’s about as secure a phone as you can have against nongovernment hackers. For any other phone, a technical specialist must look to see if there’s any software allowing it to be bugged.

Check your rearview
If you think a car has been tailing you, design a route that will take you through chokepoints—areas with no parallel roads—so the person would have to follow you to get from Point A to Point B. Drive calmly and make your normal stops so it looks as natural as possible. Note the make, model and color of the car, and the license plate. Or use a dash cam with a reverse camera. Drive long enough, and change directions enough times, to rule out coincidence.

Gravitate to safety
If you know you’re being watched and feel you’re in danger, stay in public areas. If you can, call or make your way to the police. I can tell you that surveillance investigators are not happy and will break off if a subject drives to a police station.