Stuff You Should Know: How to Disappear

Invisible Man

Do you need to get away for awhile? Do you need to get away for a few months? Do you need to make it appear as if you’ve completely vanished off the face of the Earth? You do?!? Christ almighty, what the hell did you do?

Never mind that, it’s not important. What’s important is you need to get off the grid and fast. Enter Frank Ahearn, a privacy expert who specializes in helping people vanish. Because you never know when advice like this might come in handy, we decided to pick his brain a bit. Here are some vital dos and don’ts for when it comes time to flee the sometimes unpleasant scene that is real life.

1. Never Fake Your Death

coffinFaking your death is known as “pseudocide.” It’s a great word, but a terrible plan. Most people who fake their death do it by water, thinking the evidence will drift out to sea and be sucked into a watery abyss where nobody will ever catch wind of their deceit. They figure law enforcement or an insurance investigator will simply shrug their shoulders and accept it as truth. If it was that easy, we would have stopped trying to pay our massive student loan debts off years ago.

Just joking, we didn’t go to college. But faking your own death is still a horrible idea.

2. Case In Point

Marc SchrenkerMarc Schrenker, the owner of Icon Wealth Management (an investment company), was served with a warrant on December 31st at his home for securities fraud. However, not being one to accept living a good chunk of his life in a federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison without a fight, he hopped in his plane and hit the blue skies. At some point, he parachuted out, letting his plane crash into the ground. A wonderful plan that failed to take into account the fact that, generally, there tends to be a corpse present at a scene like that. The daredevil financier was busted at a campground a short time later.

3. Never Obtain or Create A Fake Identity

mclovinAssuming a fake identity is all kinds of illegal, but that’s just the beginning of the problem. The trouble with a fake driver’s license or passport is that you never know it doesn’t work until, well, it doesn’t. That breakdown in effectiveness usually happens during a traffic stop or at customs, just two of the many situations in which you don’t want to be caught holding a fake ID. On top of that, how do you know you’re the only person that shady internet document peddler sold that exact same ID to? On the long list of surprises a person never wants to come their way, finding out that police found an identical “Harry Pairatestes” drivers license at a murder scene three states away is right near the top of the list.

4. Never Smuggle Money Offshore

smugglerFleeing from justice and high tailing it to the Caribbean sounds romantic enough, but how are you going to support yourself when you get there? If the crime you’re hoping to get away with involves a large sum of money, the temptation to smuggle some of those ill gotten gains to your new country of residence will be intense. Don’t do it. The IRS and every other agency containing three initials tend to frown on smuggling money offshore. And don’t underestimate Uncle Sam’s ability to track you through those stolen bills. Money now has tiny metal strips that can and will kick off the metal detector. Another little thing working against you – full body scanners.

5. Tell No One of Your Plans

plansAs the old saying goes – loose lips sink ships. As difficult as it may be, it’s mandatory that you not tell anyone where you’re going. Not your mother, not your kids, not even that hot Perkins waitress you wish you could take with you. When the authorities come looking for you, it’s the people closest to you that they’ll hit up for information first. Do you really want to leave the success of your escape up to your mom’s ability to keep a secret? We’re talking about the same woman who showed your prom date a video of you shitting the bath tub at age four. The odds of her holding up during an interrogation are slim to none. And for the love of God, don’t bring your cell phone with you. Instead…

6. Go Prepaid

prepaidPick up a prepaid or pay as you go phone to make contact with those you need to touch base with. Prepaid credit cards are also a good idea. They leave no trace of your transactions. A little hint – when you buy your prepaid instruments check for cameras in the store. Perhaps send a friend (or better yet, an enemy) in to buy your tools. Their misfortunate will bring your vanishing act alive!

7. Spread Some Misinformation

misinformationMisinformation is the act of locating every bit of information known about you and deviating/deleting it. Check your cell phone account, electric, cable, water, browser history (double check that) and even your airline frequent flier account. They all have contact information on you and may even have your work information, mother’s phone number or email address.

Pay special attention to that browser history. Skipping town with a search history full of “The Top 10 Places for Criminals to Hide” queries is a dead giveaway that something is amiss. As for all those “Pokemon Cosplay” searches, we don’t even know what to say. Seriously, get some help.

8. And Then Some Disinformation

disinformationDisinformation is the act of creating false trails. On your social media pages start writing bogus information about moving to Chicago, joining the French Foreign Legion or even a cult (no one will bother you then). Better yet create a fake social network account on sites like Facebook and Myspace. You can use your real name but make sure to list a bogus city and fake job in order to confuse the predators hoping to bring you in.

9. And Now…Reformation

reformationThe final and trickiest step, reformation is basically the act of getting to your chosen hiding place without leaving a trail and, if absolutely necessary, setting up some safe means of communicating with trusted family members or friends. It’s a tricky step that is a lot like everything else in life…you get what you pay for. You probably won’t be able to do it alone. If you’ve made it this far, don’t half ass things now by leaving it up to an amateur. Pay an expert to help make it happen.

10. Do Your Homework

how to disappearAs informative as we try to make these “Stuff You Should Know” articles, you’d be completely insane to expect to find everything you need to know about successfully disappearing from a one page internet article. Information on how to pull off a grand disappearing act is out there, buy it in the most discreet manner possible and use it to plot your escape.

If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out Frank Ahearn’s book, How to Disappear, which you can buy here or at his website. When you’re running a beach side daiquiri stand in some remote South American village, free from the pursuit of pesky feds, you’ll be glad you read it.

Our thanks go out to Kyle Dowling for his help with this article.