How To disappear completelyTake yourself off the grid with tips from the man who can track you down
Frank M Ahearn has a very special set of skills. He’s a professional ‘skip tracer’, hunting down fugitives by the clues they’ve left. It’s a talent he can put into reverse – helping high-net-worth clients simply vanish. It doesn’t require disguises or hacking, just a skilful mind and the ability to cut loose friends, family and colleagues.
“Assume your predator is here with you now – live as if they’re around the corner,” says the author of How To Disappear. “I teach my clients how to accomplish things without creating connections.” Now he’s going to teach you.
1 To lose yourself, first find yourself
“Disappearing is about being a strategist. Step outside yourself – look at the life you’re leaving behind and the things that will lead a predator to you. Six months ago, what did you search for on the internet? What habits do you have? What are your mannerisms? Change anything that could make people curious about you. Don’t walk around looking like you’re from Miami when you’re actually in the west of Ireland. And if you’re in a rowdy bar, don’t act like a wallflower – be rowdy.”
2 The getaway
“Don’t travel with all your tools, because what will happen if you lose them? Prepaid phone, prepaid debit card, major ID, those are the essentials. You can buy clothes. If you have a passport and driver’s licence, carry one and ship the other. If you’re not running from the government, you don’t need a new identity. Get pulled over with a fake ID, loads of cash or 75 prepaid debit cards and law enforcement are going to find that suspicious.”
3 Leave a trail of breadcrumbs
The art of disappearing is disinformation – it doesn’t have to be believable, but it has to be findable. In one case, the predator was my client’s husband. I stuffed her wallet with euros and dropped it in a hotel in Paris knowing that someone would hand it in. Bingo – her husband is hunting my client down in Paris and she’s tucked away in Lisbon. Keep them busy with fake information or they’ll find real information.”
4 Minimise your footprint
“Wherever you go there’s going to be a trace; the key is leaving the fewest traces and breaking the connection between each step. Don’t walk in Times Square – take a taxi, reduce the number of people who can see you. If you run into someone you know, tell them you’re heading to Belgium in two days. If they post it on Facebook, you’re spreading more disinformation.”
5 Live off social transactions
“You still have to operate in the world, but it’s how you manipulate situations to accomplish this that matters. People think pay-as-you-go phones are anonymous – they’re not. Walk into a store and a camera captures the transaction. Instead, find some homeless guy and say, ‘Here’s 100 bucks, go buy me a prepaid phone.’ They make the physical transaction, their picture’s on the camera, you have no connection to the phone.”