How to Deal With Bad Guys when SHTF

You don’t need to tell most seasoned preppers how troublesome their fellow humans can be. Even in kinder times, you’ll always have to deal with the criminals, the psychos, the sadists and the malcontents.


Many of them want to rob you or kill you to take what you have because they want it, and for no other reason.

Some of them are simply unspeakably evil, warped by sin and will hurt you for sport or for a laugh. Some of them simply are not there, and may kill you for no reason at all.

If these people are present before a SHTF event we can be certain they will also be there in the aftermath of one, and likely in greater profusion.

Using the chaos and carnage of a major disaster or crisis situation as cover or as a distraction you can be certain they will be more active than ever before, preying on the unwary and the weak. A great many of them will do so under the guise of appearing friendly, or appearing as someone in need.

Luckily for the savvy prepper there will be warning signs for this duplicitous behavior: Verbal and physical tics, pre-attack indicators, tells.

Learning to recognize them and then learning to see them, to filter them against the backdrop of grief, tragedy and anger that will be attending to the population following a major incident will be crucial for staying safe from these two-legged predators.

This article will teach you how to recognize and deal with the bad guys in the aftermath.

Society, Remixed

Normally, if you were concerned with spotting bad guys in normal society, your task will be a little bit easier. This is mostly because your baseline for normal in society and during social interactions with your fellow man is more or less well-calibrated.

Or at least it presents fewer novel situations, at least in your own life, and the ones that do occur stick out. If you’re the kind of person who makes it a point to maintain situational awareness when you’re going about your day, you have doubtless already spotted plenty of people who were “not acting right.”

This will not be the case after an SHTF event. If you stop to consider how bad things may very well be, and the grief, desperation, fear, pain and anger your average person will be dealing with, you can begin to understand how this will serve as a sort of static to your social radar.

You may very well be dealing with many of those emotions yourself. You’ll be seeing, even doing, things that are decidedly not normal, not part of your baseline. This means you’ll need to recalibrate your sensors, as it were, quickly.

It may not be as easy to tell friend, or at least friendly, from foe as you think. On the other hand, some people will definitely self-select.

Chances are high you’ll see human depravity on full and proud display in the form of looting, assault, robbery and worse. I need not tell you that anyone engaged in that sort of behavior is no one you want anything to do with, and you should give them a wide berth.

On the other hand, otherwise decent people may be forced to do decidedly indecent things. Not all looting is created equal.

Someone making off with a nice new flat panel TV or pair of overpriced sneakers emblazoned with the name of some ball player is an entirely different stripe of deed compared to someone who is leaving a wrecked store with some food and diapers.

Establish a New Baseline

The point of all this is that you’ll need to recalibrate your context for what is normal and do so quickly and accurately.

You’ll be facing a lot of people that need help, a lot of people that are grieving, a lot of people that are desperate and people that are irrational.

It will be tough to sift through all the emotional and contextual noise. But you must do so; the rules of the game won’t change. Some things will only ever be a prelude to worse things to come.

That means your personal procedure shouldn’t change. Ideally if you’ve been prepping for any length of time at all you’ve already trained and practiced dealing with people that are potential threats and are able to shift into the right gear for dealing with it at the drop of a hat.

If your instincts are nibbling you that something isn’t right, that you’re in danger, you almost certainly are regardless of any other circumstances. Listen to that and be prepared to take action!

In the section below we’ll be going over some pre-attack indicators and contextual clues that will help inform our judgment of who is a good guy and who is a bad guy. Some of these things are evergreen, meaning they apply during kind times and ill.

Some of these things are specific to disruptive environments of the kind you’ll typically inhabit in the wake of a SHTF event.

No matter which category they fall into, if you take the time to learn and understand what they look like and what they mean, you’ll have a far easier time spotting them in the field.

Tells, Indicators and Red-Flags

The sections below details a variety of clues that may help you make a determination of who is a certified good guy and who is a genuine bad actor.

Remember, context is everything. You might not have all the information you need to make a perfectly informed decision. Some of these are extremely obvious, and leave no room for interpretation.

Others may be getting into a gray area, one where you’ll need more time or more information to discern what a person is all about.

Regardless, you should have your awareness cranked up in the aftermath of a SHTF situation and be on the lookout for all of them.

Obvious Malicious Criminality

This is a red flag that should need no explanation.

As I alluded to above anyone that you see engaged and vicious displays of violence that justification or malicious criminality, i.e. vandalism, arson, assault, wanton destruction and so forth, is a scumbag and should be avoided at all cost or interdicted depending on their threat and proximity to you.

There is no two ways about it. Some people are just evil, and revel in any opportunity to sow evil and indulge in the mindless joy the destruction and slaughter brings.

No Cover for Action, No Cover for Location

When you are assessing people in the aftermath of an SHTF situation, you must notice what they are doing, where they are and why. Obviously, things won’t be the way they were before.

Many people may be living in a sort of refugee status, and milling around for no reason, or effectively living a homeless lifestyle. This can make things tricky, though with a sharp eye and a little deductive ability you’ll be able to pick out who doesn’t fit in.

For instance, does someone seem to be loitering near people who come and go regularly, or working near a place that affords them a quick exit or potentially some concealment if they wanted to get up to no good? That might be a clue.

Also pay attention to anyone who’s following you, even from a distance, or someone who is hanging out where you’re going to be along your path of travel where is moving to be where you will be along your path of travel.

Ask yourself: why is that person there? Why are they doing, what they are doing right this second? If the person in question does not have a logical and convincing reason, you should keep your head on a swivel.

Nervous Movement

This indicator may mean that someone is simply stressed out of their mind with everything that has been happening recently, but it also might mean they are gearing up to attack someone.

Humans display many curious gestures when anxiousness and guilt, or excitement over what they’re about to do combine. You commonly see so-called grooming displays exhibited, i.e. movements like touching, rubbing or smoothing at the neck, face and chin.

Males are particularly likely to display these movements prior to initiating violence, along with large, active movements of the arms.

Glancing around nervously, avoiding eye contact and smoothing or preening of clothing may also be indicators, but then again they may just be part of a stress response or a self-soothing complex.

One big give away is someone who seems to use a hand or sometimes two to check on an object on their person that is out of sight.

A quick tap, pat or readjustment consistently occurring at one spot on their body is likely a “security blanket” check on a carry weapon, done in order to reassure the carrier but the weapon is still in place.

Personal Space Invaders

As ugly as it sounds, especially in the aftermath of a disaster, you must be extremely cautious of anyone who approaches you and enters your personal space for any reason whatsoever.

This is the odds-on favorite tool of muggers and highwaymen to fix a potential victim in place. Everyone’s got a sob story. Everyone lost someone.

Everyone had a bad turn of luck, or got hurt, or got stranded. You must be alert to the fact that this may be nothing more than a prelude to you getting shanked, shot or having your skull bashed in.

You must likewise be careful of anyone who tries to flag you down, get you to hold up, stop moving, etc. Double your caution if any of this takes place in conditions of low light or after dark.

If all of the above is taking place while you also just so happened to be alone you can likely count on attack taking place soon.

Sure, it might be legitimate. Yes, maybe you can help them. Yes, you might be leaving someone in a jam or adrift.

These are ethical questions you must sort out now, because you won’t have time to sort them out effectively when you have someone begging you, frantically, to come quick because they need help.

This is another common ploy of two or more criminals working in tandem to absolutely decapitate the unwary sheep blundering into their trap.

Your solution: stop and back off anyone approaching you in no uncertain terms. You can make up some socially acceptable throwaway excuse if you want to, but it isn’t necessary. What is necessary is you watch their reaction.

A decent person will likely obey your command. They may offer an explanation or excuse for their behavior, and that’s fine, but you watch them!

See if they glance to someone perhaps out of sight or out of your field of vision. See if they slowly start to close in or press you with more reasons for why they need to come closer. If any of that occurs, you had better have warning bells going off.

The Helpful Racket

Another altogether too common scheme in the wake of disasters is a person or persons who are a little too insistent on helping people.

Maybe they just care so much they are not willing to take no for an answer. Maybe they’re a little too pushy.

If you pay attention to these selfless, apparent Dudley Do-Rights you may start to notice some soft shakedowns going on. They might be lifting supplies or other Goods off of the people they’re helping with “grateful” acceptance in the spirit of cooperation.

This trick is commonly employed against the elderly who are geometrically more vulnerable than the young, fit and able in such circumstances. Nonetheless, it can be employed against everyone.

If someone offers to help you and you positively do not need his help, tell him so, once again in no uncertain terms. If they persist or insist, be on your guard.

Take the Social Temperature

It pays to pay attention to the other survivors around you. While not always the case, chances are good if you’ve got a bad actor milling around other people who have likely taken notice already. Their body language, facial expressions and other behaviors may inform you about a particular person.

Before diving into any group, or entering an interaction with someone, take a moment to observe other interactions unfolding.

How are people behaving with each other? Are they behaving in an open or closed manner? Does anyone seem too stressed, or rather unduly distressed considering the circumstances?

You should also be on the lookout for guns and other weapons. A preponderance of guns or knives in hand and ready to be used is a clue that people are on alert, and tense.

Well, there is a better-than-average chance in America at least that a well-armed person or group maybe going forth so armed out of an abundance of caution, just like you.

There’s also a decent chance they’re willing to use those guns to get what they want, even if they have to lift it off your rapidly cooling body.

On a similar note, be very cautious around large crowds and groups of people, especially ones who are becoming agitated and seem to be acting in unison for some purpose.

Groups that get overly excited, scared or angry will quickly turn into a mob, and mobs are very dangerous and unpredictable. You don’t want any part of it, especially on the backside of an already terrible disaster.

Keep a close eye on anyone who seems to be trying to incite or inflame the crowd. The odds are ten-to-one they’re not a good guy.

Groups or Individuals Taking Too Much Interest in the Crowd

Take note of any individuals or groups taking too much interest in a crowd or in people going by. It seems like they’re looking for someone, or waiting for someone but are acting discreet about it, they’re likely looking for the next victim, not the relative, and not their lost dog Bobo.

Also be aware for people that seem to be communicating with nods and glances, or even cell phones, if they’re still working after the event. A group of people seem like they’re coordinating their efforts again someone they haven’t yet seen, that’s a major clue!

Remember what I said about taking everything in context. Someone who’s up to no good is not likely to operate openly unless they are extraordinarily confident or naïve.

Someone who seems to be scanning a crowd anxiously and very obviously is likely just looking for someone they know and they’re hoping to find.

People who seem to be loitering, biding their time or just taking it easy while constantly keeping their eyes moving over the crowd, and just as importantly what people in the crowd are carrying, is most likely a predator looking for his next meal.


The chaos and confusion that’ll be prevalent in the aftermath of a disaster serves as a sort of emotional and social screen to picking out the bad guys.

Even so, some things never change, and chances are the criminal and the evil among us will not be able to restrain themselves, and they certainly won’t be on their best behavior.

With diligence study and observation, you can learn to spot the behavioral clues that can tip you off to their presence among the mass of humanity trying to survive a SHTF crisis.

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1 thought on “How to Deal With Bad Guys when SHTF”

  1. This reminded me of what happened when I was ten years old.

    My Mom let my older brother and I travel to San Francisco for a San Francisco Seals baseball game (the Seals were the local team that played before the “Giants” arrived). She gave us each some spending money and (as usual) pinned our small black cloth purses into our pants pockets.

    At the game, I surreptitiously checked my purse to see if I had enough money for peanuts and then had pushed it back into my pocket. A moment later, I felt a sudden tug on my pants. I looked down to see my purse was now all the way out of my pocket, but still securely pinned into the insides of my pocket.

    I poked my brother and asked, “Why did you pull out my purse?”

    His answer, “I didn’t.”

    We both looked behind us to where a fellow in his twenties had been sitting…only he was no longer there…he was climbing the bleacher stairs to a spot at least twelve rows back.

    That’s when we made the connection. That GUY had tried to rob me!

    After that, it was NEVER embarrassing for Mom to pin in my purse, and I fully realized WHY she did it!

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