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How to Behave With Suspicious People to Stay Out of Trouble

We all know from childhood that we shouldn’t talk to strangers or get into their cars. But few people know what to do if someone follows you onto a dark street, enters an elevator after you when the doors are closing, or knocks on the door of your apartment asking for help.

At Bright Side, we decided to figure out how to act when meeting potentially dangerous people in order to stay safe.

1. If you think someone is following you

If you think that someone is watching you, don’t dismiss the idea. Stay alert because unfortunately, no one is immune to this. And it’s better to take some protective measures than to get caught up in an unpleasant or even life-threatening situation. Here’s what to do:

  • If you walk with headphones on, take them off. This way, you can hear what’s happening around you, and it will help you to stay alert.

  • It’s also a good idea to keep your eyes up rather than look down at the ground. Not only does this let you see what’s around you but it also makes you look more confident and less scared, which can make you less of a target for a thief who might be following you.

  • You shouldn’t look back behind you all the time. The person following you might realize that you’re aware of them, and it can provoke them to take action.

  • Enter a crowded subway station. Stay there for some time and try to see your follower. Perhaps they will leave you alone if they think that you’ve decided to stay here for a long time.
  • If it happens at night, don’t go into poorly lit places like parks, alleys, narrow streets, etc. Head to a place with a lot of light and people, like a cafe, a well-lit boulevard, or something similar.

To check whether or not the potential follower is just a passer-by who’s walking in the same direction as you, take a small detour. Turn right, then right again, and again. Alternatively, pretend that you have forgotten or lost something and make a U-turn. If the person continues to follow you, you can be sure that this is no longer a coincidence. In this case, it’s time to move toward a crowded place and call the police.

If you have nowhere to go and nowhere to hide while this person continues to follow you, take out your wallet and throw it on the ground. It could be the reason why you’re being followed in the first place. In this case, it’s better to part with your money than with your health or even your life.

2. If a stranger or a group of strangers harass you

Usually, such situations aren’t threatening, however, there are some unpleasant exceptions, like if a person or a group in front of you is drunk, for example. Unfortunately, there’s no right way to instantly stop harassment, but there are a number of strategies you can follow:

  • Keep your facial expressions neutral. Show no anger or disgust, and look directly in the face of your offenders. This kind of action has a psychological effect: the aggressors realize that you are not just an object, but a person. It’s more difficult to harm a person than “a thing.”

  • If a stranger sits down next to you or gets too close, stretch your arm out in front of you, creating an obstacle. Don’t push or touch the harasser. Say, firmly: “I want you to stay away from me,” or something like that, but be sure to use the pronoun, “I.” This has the same effect as the neutral facial expression that was previously mentioned. This recommendation seems simple, but in reality, it’s not that easy to do.

  • You can make the abuser think of their own mother. Ask them in a stern voice: “Does your mom know she raised a street harasser?” The fact is, usually people have a close connection with their parents. This can help you to calm the person down.

  • If you walk past a potentially dangerous group of people or a person and hear whistling, hooting, or catcalling, take whatever you’re holding, like your handbag, in your left hand, and leave your right hand free. Experts say that this will make you look less vulnerable. Also, you can fight back this way.

Of course, the best way to avoid harassment is simply by staying away from situations where harassment could become an issue. Unfortunately, this mission is almost impossible, so be vigilant.

3. If a stranger enters an elevator with you

It’s very important to listen to your inner voice. If a person scares you for some reason, leave the elevator immediately. It’s better to look like a paranoid person than to get into trouble. You can pretend that you’ve forgotten something and run out through the closing doors.

If you didn’t get the chance to leave, here are the steps you can take:

  • Stand with your back facing the panel with buttons, blocking it from the stranger. This way, you’ll prevent the stranger from pressing the stop button and can press the help button yourself if you feel threatened.

  • Don’t stand with your back or side to the stranger. Stand with them, face to face. This way, you’ll be able to see what the stranger is doing, making it harder for them to catch you off guard.

  • Take out your keys, phone, or any other object that you can use to defend yourself if necessary.

You can check out if a stranger is really dangerous by paying close attention to their behavior. If after entering the elevator, they don’t look at the panel with buttons and don’t try to press any of them, it’s an alarming sign. In this case, even if your inner voice is silent, get out of the elevator as soon as possible.

4. If someone knocks on the door, and you’re home alone

The most important thing in this situation is not to open the door. It’s also dangerous to pretend that you aren’t home — strangers might just be looking for an empty apartment. If no one answers their knock, they may try to open the door. Ask loudly and clearly who is it and what they need, and then act according to their response:

  • If a person says that they’re injured or need some help, just know that you can’t help them in any way. Offer to call an ambulance or the police. If a person really needs help, they will be happy for the assistance, but in most cases, they’ll just leave.

  • If a person tries to open your door or doesn’t leave, call the police. Do it loudly so that the stranger can hear it. You can also use a little trick: turn on a video with a dog barking on your phone and say loudly: “Don’t!” If there’s a thief behind the door, it will frighten them off. Very few people want to meet someone else’s dog, especially a big one.

  • Oftentimes, swindlers pretend to be employees of some utility company. In this case, ask for the name of the company, then call their office and find out if they really sent anyone.

One of the most common tricks is when a woman rings the doorbell and asks for help. She seems harmless, but you must understand that robbers usually work in a team, and there may be a man standing next to her who is just waiting for a potential victim to open the door.

Have you ever been in similar situations like these? What did you do? Tell us in the comments below.