Written by Staff Writer at CNN
The next time you’re presented with a strange stare or grab you by the arms at an airport security checkpoint, consider the possibility that a traveler could be trying to get a close look at you.
“Stalking,” defined by the FBI as someone who “interfers in a person’s private life for the purpose of emotional or sexual gratification” is a crime that occurs — even in the guise of having their mind blown or their luggage searched — every day around the world.
Here are 10 potentially confused security fanatics to watch out for in a season of terror:
1. Standing still
Drink those shoes, they may be worthless to the alien crimefighter and the FBI. Credit: Henrik Halberg/Magnum Photos/Getty Images
What’s it looking like when you’re standing still on the line of a busy airport? It’s nobody’s business what you’re wearing, unless you’re a Zara-clad terrorist hiding in plain sight . (Hint: it’s probably cologne, sunblock and latex gloves.) And even then, you probably don’t belong in that position. Be sure to scan your surroundings before any departure or arrival.
2. Having too much stuff
Some travelers go above and beyond to pack light. Credit: courtesy TSA
Travelers with too much stuff to carry have a greater risk of being a stalker. “Be smart and pack light — that includes luggage and stuff,” travel lawyer Steve Locklear advises. “Have a backup plan (by bag, rail, flight) before you travel.”
3. Eating out
Food concerns are at the top of many potential stalkers’ worry lists. Credit: Paula Milne
“Go out of your way to be alert,” says Locklear. “Out of all the annoying and annoying things people do, eating out is often up there in our top three.” He suggests that any travel mishap leads to an increase in anxiety and paranoia. So always keep your hands out of your pockets when eating out and always pay attention when you’re in restaurants, at shopping malls and in airports. If someone does catch your eye or get too friendly with you, just answer politely and move on. You’ll be surprised how quickly panic sets in.
4. Checking your phone too much
A person with a few too many messages in their phone could be a potential stalker. Credit: Shutterstock
“The opportunities for stalkers in this day and age are greater,” Locklear says. He advises travelers to watch what they’re doing with their phones.
“I’m a big believer that there are very successful victims of stalking who’d never put themselves in that place to be noticed.”
5. Leaving it all behind
A viral video of a traveler leaving her shoes at baggage claim is an easy way to be a natural target. Credit: Andrew Averill/AP/REX/Shutterstock
As noted in The Simple Life , “One of the most realistic examples of a stalker is “when you’re to the right, if you put your phone down and you start walking away, an immediate look is provided.”
Most potential stalker targets will alert authorities when they see a potential stalker, but it can be easy to turn a blind eye. Simply look for the obvious signs — overzealous requests for photos, a suspicious-looking visitor or more obvious issues such as not recognizing faces in a crowd.
6. Causing trouble
‘Bribery’ is another term used to describe odd behavior. Credit: Shutterstock
If a traveler has a reason to believe that someone — in a way that is not possible to explain — is trying to make them uncomfortable and wants to “gain control of them,” they may be a potential stalker.
Call in the FBI and know what to do if they do. “A lot of times, they’re doing it to gain control of themselves — so they won’t be disruptive to others,” says Locklear. “Very rarely is this someone who’s trying to get to you.”
7. Outward displays of affection
A man pictured here on duty patrol at LaGuardia Airport New York asked for the opportunity to sleep in his uniform in order to fight against wanderlust. Credit: Hugh Taylor/Magnum Photos/Getty Images
One of the easiest signs to make sure you’re not being stalked is showing affection. “Don’t be stupid,” says Locklear.
“Even if you’re traveling alone, people have a natural affinity for each other. If you have a friend, a partner, a boyfriend, a girlfriend or a husband or wife, would you ever do anything like that?”
Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Even in moments of travel — when you could be skipping customs and heading straight for the airport lounge — experts advise against