Always act casual. Whether you're spying on someone in your home or spying on someone at the mall, the most important thing is to be as cool as a cucumber. If you're dressed up in a ridiculous disguise, acting super nervous, and/or making it really obvious that you're trying to spy by tripping, carrying colorful equipment, and/or generally drawing attention to yourself, then you'll be caught within seconds. If you want to spy on people, you have to know how to act cool, like you're just minding your own business — instead of devising a scheme to find out what people are really up to.
Part of acting casual comes from your body language. Don't stand up too tall but hunch over just enough to look relaxed, don't fidget too much, and keep your eyes looking ahead instead of looking down at the floor. If you come off as too nervous, people will instantly notice you.
Don't act like you're loitering around, looking up and down, or searching for something. This will make it pretty obvious what you're there for. Just act cool, like you're taking your time waiting for someone, enjoying a spring day, or just wrapped up in your own thoughts.
If the person you're spying on sees you, act like it's no big deal. Say hi or just nod and smile if you don't know the person. If you run off or look jittery, that will definitely clue the person in on the fact that something is up.
Have an excuse if you get caught. This is an important part of being a master spy. Though if you're good at what you do, you'll never get caught, you have to be prepared for whatever may come your way, and unfortunately, one of those things is being found out. So, before you go on your next spy mission, you have to come up with a likely story for why you're spying, or you'll be caught red-handed. Here are some ideas:
If you're at home spying on a parent or sibling, come up with an idea for why you're in that closet, at the edge of that doorway, or creeping up in the same room as the person. Maybe you're crouched down on the floor because you've lost an earring (bonus points if you're wearing just one earring), or because you're searching for something else. Maybe you're in the basement because you're folding your laundry. Find a reason for whatever it is you're doing and why you're there.
If you're out in public spying on someone, just come up with a reason for being in the same place. If the person catches you spying on him at Macy's, mention that you're there to pick up a Mother's Day gift for your mom. If you're caught spying at the movies, produce two tickets and say you're waiting for a friend who never showed up. The more normal and boring your excuse is, the better.
Walk softly. This is another must for a true spy. If you're going to spy on someone, then you can't go clomping around in work boots or high heels. Pick shoes that have rubber soles and are light and quiet, such as TOMS, light sandals, or even Ugg boots, which tend not to make a sound. Test the shoes out before you use them for a spy mission. If you're at home, of course, then bare feet should work best.
Beyond the shoes, you also have to practice not making a lot of sound when you walk. Tread lightly, walking on your toes, trying to make as little noise as possible.
Learn from the experts. You can learn a lot from reading books or watching movies about people who are professional spies, or who involve some spying into their everyday lives. You can get some great ideas about which techniques work best and which should be avoided. Here are some great sources of inspiration:
Harriet the Spy
The Hardy Boys
Any James Bond films
The Bourne Trilogy
Practice before your first mission. Once you have a target in mind and a spy plan on your docket, it's best to get some practice before you do the real thing. You can practice spying on one of your friends instead of your target to see if you'll get caught. You can spy on your mom instead of your sister for a bit just to see if it'll work. If you get caught, you can ask yourself what you can do better to avoid getting caught the next time.
It's important to know your strengths and weaknesses as a spy, and to adjust your first mission accordingly based on what you learned from your practice session.
Learn to blend in. The key to being a spy is to blend into to your surroundings as much as you can. This doesn't mean you should camouflage yourself like Peeta in The Hunger Games, but that you should make sure you're as inconspicuous as possible in any setting. Don't do anything that will set you apart from other people. If you're at a football game, wear fan gear like everyone else — you'll stand out much more if you're wearing black. Pick clothes that make you fit in to the environment, instead of investing in fancy spy gear that puts a big bullseye on your back.
It's important to not only look like everyone else around you, but to do what everyone else is doing. If you're in a bookstore, act like you're searching for a book or engrossed in one. If you're at an ice cream shop, you'll look out of place if you're not enjoying or buying your own cone of ice cream.
If you're spying from home, then wear what you normally wear so your family members or neighbors don't suspect that something is different about you. If you can minimize the sound your clothes make, that would be helpful, but beyond that, don't mix it up too much.
Always carry a notebook and pen. Harriet the Spy knew what she was doing. If you really want to be able to spy on people and to discover all of the secrets of the loved ones and strangers around you, then carrying a notebook around is an absolute must. You should notice everything you hear and see and jot it down. It may not make much sense to you or seem too important yet, but later, you may realize that you were on your way to finding a huge piece of the puzzle.
Write down the date and time, and jot down everything the person is doing.
To make the notebook look uninteresting, write “MATH” or the name of another school subject on it in big letters. Who would want to open that?
Disguise your handwriting as much as you can. If someone finds your notebook, you want to make sure they can't trace it back to you. Write in tiny letters if you normally write with large letters, make your writing slanted in a different direction, dot your i's if you don't normally do that, and so on.
Don't refer to the person you're spying on by their real name. Use a code name.
You can carry a small pocket-sized pad if you think it'll make you look too obvious.
Consider getting a partner in crime. Though you can definitely spy on people on your own, having a partner can help you get some important information you might not have discovered by yourself. Your partner can help you try new techniques, can be useful if you have a walkie-talkie thing going, and can be a huge help if the person you're spying on knows you but has never seen your partner before. The most important thing, though, is that your partner is someone you can really trust. You don't want someone else blowing your cover.
Having a partner can help you up your game because the person can pose as a door-to-door salesman, lost citizen, or another random person who can get the person's attention while you continue your sleuthing.
Having a partner can also increase the chances of spying on a whole gang of certain people.
Sneak around corners. Standing pressed flat to a wall when something around the corner is happening is one great way to spy on people in your home. Make sure that you press yourself to the wall, leave at least an inch or two between you and the corner so you stay hidden, and that you carefully turn one ear toward the source. You can also crouch by the corner and listen this way, but this will make it a bit harder to come up with an excuse if you're caught.
If you hear the person approaching, just casually walk up the stairs to cross their path with an idea of what you're setting out to do. It's better to do this than to have the person see you scurrying down the stairs.
Pretend to be doing something nearby. This is another great way to spy on someone in your house. You can be in the next room, doing homework, while listening to everything they are talking about. If you want to spy on your sister in the basement, go to the room next to it to fold your laundry; if you want to spy on your dad, who is fixing up the garage, act like you're raking leaves outside. Of course, the quieter the activity you're doing nearby, the better.
Don't do something completely out of the ordinary that you would never normally do —like suddenly doing the dishes when you haven't done them for months —or that can arouse even more suspicion.
Pretend to be listening to music. If you're that type of person, then your parents are probably used to you going around with your headphones on, rocking out to music all the time. If this is what you do —or if you want to get into the habit of doing this around the house so people think it's normal for you —then it can be a great way to have people reveal private information in the same room as you because they won't think you're listening.
Though this may not always work, if you always putter around the house with your headphones in, laughing to yourself, and looking like you're in your own world, people will get into the habit of thinking that you're not really there, and they may inadvertently say something around you because they think you're not listening.
You should still have some music playing, such as classical music or jazz, just in case you're caught out. Just play it at a low volume.
Listen to conversations over the phone. Listening in on the other line while your parents or siblings are talking on the house phone is another great way to spy. The important thing here is to anticipate the conversation before it happens, so you've already picked up the phone when the person sets out to make the call. If you pick up the phone after the person does, then they'll be able to hear you before they make the call.
If the phone rings for your mom or sibling and you want to stay on the line, then pick it up first, yell for the person to get it, and once they do, place the phone down and pick it back up, so it looks like you've put down the receiver.
It's particularly important to avoid breathing heavily when you spy over the phone. You can even hold the phone close to your ear but a bit away from your mouth to minimize suspicion.
Avoid heavy breathing. If you want to be able to spy on people at home, then you have to practice breathing as shallowly as possible. If you breathe too heavily, then your sibling or family member will instantly turn around and you'll be caught. You need to practice taking slow, shallow breaths, out of your nose if possible, so that your breathing doesn't catch anyone's attention.
You should also work on learning to hold a sneeze or to suppress a cough. You don't want your allergies to give you away, either.
Get a web camera with motion detection. A web camera with motion detection can be a huge asset to a spy's computer. If you set it to turn on whenever anyone walks in the room, then it'll automatically start recording the person who is in there, and you'll be able to see exactly what that person has been up to. This is a great way to spy on people in your house. If you have a laptop, you can even leave it in different parts of your house “by accident” so you're more likely to be able to record people.
Eavesdrop by pressing a glass to the wall. If you place a glass to the wall with the bottom facing your ear and the open part of the glass to the wall, you'll be able to slightly amplify the sound in the next room. This can help you be a master eavesdropper, and to hear everything the people in the next room are saying — whether or not they want to keep things secret.
Remain inconspicuous. If you're out in public to spy on someone, the best thing you can do is to blend in completely. If the person knows you and you want to stay hidden, then you can consider wearing sunglasses, but only if it doesn't make you look totally obvious. To fit in with the crowd, just wear whatever the people are wearing and do what the people are doing. You can also change your hairstyle or do something different to make yourself look different, as long as it doesn't draw more attention to you.
Putting on a fake elaborate beard or dressing in all black in the middle of the summer, for example, will only make you stand out more.
Don't make any sudden movements. Move quickly enough so that it looks like you're walking with purpose, but slowly enough that it doesn't seem like you're in a particular rush. If you're trailing someone, you must never run, obviously pick up the pace, or get out of breath. If you really want to go undetected, then you have to be stealthy and keep your cool, even if your target is getting away.
Though the most important thing is to keep an eye on your target, you should also be aware of your surroundings. You'll blow your cover if you bump into someone, knock something over, or trip.
Learn to read lips. Learning to read lips is a skill that can help you go far. If you learn to do this, you can watch people from afar and figure out what they're talking about. Of course, you have to have to be able to see the person's mouth and to remain unseen, but you can pull this off if you remain inconspicuous — or find a great hiding place with a pair of binoculars! You can take lip-reading courses online to learn how to master this useful and stealthy skill. For example, here are a few things you should know:
When a person says vowels, their mouth will make a “round-mouthed” shape.
When a person says the “th” sound, the tongue will come out of their mouth and their lips will be rounded.
You can try sounding out the word in your own mouth to get a better sense of what might have been said.
Once you get better at looking at the mouth and lips, you can start to look at the rest of the mouth and face for context.
Until you become a master at lip reading, you can even try to videotape a person's conversation (if you can see their face) and then play it back later for yourself as you try to decipher what the person was saying.
Consider using binoculars. Binoculars are another must have if you're committed to really spying on people. The important thing is that you use them wisely and very, very carefully. You can use them from home to spy on your neighbors — if you're in a dark room with no reflection, it may be harder to get noticed than if you're out in public.
Though you may see lots of films of people using binoculars while crouching in a bush, in reality, this will get you caught pretty fast. If you really want to use binoculars to spy on people outside, then you should make sure you have lots of distance from the person you're spying on.
Travel light. If you're going out in public, then you don't want to bring a camera, a giant backpack, eighty spy gadgets, and a giant notebook and set of pens. You should only bring what you absolutely need to spy on someone — and look like you're carrying even less. If you bring lots of gear and need a while to set everything up, then you'll only draw more attention to yourself. Find a way to pack everything you need in a small bag or to hide it in your coat. If you look like you're carrying almost nothing, then people will think you're up to nothing.
Use a mirror. If you're out in public and want to spy on the person behind you, pull out a mirror, and maybe even some makeup, and make it look like you're just studying your face. Then, tilt the mirror in such a direction that you can see the person you want to see behind you in the mirror. You can also try to hide the mirror in a book or another object you're holding in front of you — just make sure no one can spot it.
If you're going to make it look like you're just grooming yourself, you can't do this forever. If you do it for too long, you may call too much attention to yourself.
Use a secret recording device. You can go online and find covert objects that are really recording devices, such as the Spy Pen. If you get one of these objects, you can leave it where two people will sit down and talk, leave it on, and then come back for it later so you can play the conversation back to yourself. You can also just use a regular recording device, but then you have to be able to hide it well — maybe in the bottom of a bag you accidentally “left” in the place where the people you're spying on will be.
If you're using a traditional recording device with a tape, just remember that it will eventually run out of tape and will make a tell-tale sound when it does so. Use it to record for only a short period of time.
Lock down all of your devices that contain spying material. If you're a true spy, then you have to make sure people can't figure out your intents. Lock your phone, computer, and/or any of your other spying devices, so that if you accidentally leave them out, unauthorized people cannot access them. Some devices even contain an option that sets an alarm off when an unauthorized person attempts to access it. This can also help you know who is trying to spy on you — and it will keep all of your secrets safe.