Lets face it, there are many many good reasons why any one of us might want to drop out and disappear completely. Someone could be out to kill you, you could owe loads of money to the wrong people, or need to get away from a psycho ex. And with the economic turmoil these days, there are many more reasons why the average person would even think of stuff like just disappearing and dropping out of society into the underground economy and living off of cash jobs. With CCTV everywhere, more and more of us tied to some digital life, and governments becoming more and more like a surveillance state, it is harder than ever to hide out without someone somewhere knowing our every move. But what if you wanted to really hide out and vanish and live permanently in the underground economy, under even the radar of Big Brother? This is a critical question that is more relevant now then ever in our history as a nation as the NSA is presently copying 1.7 billion electronic communications a day in the United States. Disappearing from sight means complete invisibility or as close to it as you can get.
The planning and execution of staging your complete disappearance and eventual rebirth into anonymity, has to effectively run its course through some stages: affirming your purpose, destroying your past history, scrambling your trail with disinformation, and then resurfacing someplace in the underground economy.
Defining Your Purpose
So, things have gotten to the point where you are desperate and convinced after lots of thought that dropping off of the face of the earth is the only option. You might have an abusive ex husband after you, or it might be gang members or criminals out to hurt you. You are convinced you are in danger. You need to understand who and what you are running from and why you need, above all else, to not put your self at risk or exposure. You are sure that your running will not jeopardize your loved ones, or harm anyone else. You know that whoever is pursuing you, could possibly not give up for a long time, and it might involve some “lost time” in your life. You know and are absolutely sure what the score is and have little to loose. You are ready to pay the price and take the risk. You are convinced that this is your only shot at a new life. Disappearing is your necessity of purpose.
Destroying Your History
The snoops. Bill collectors, repossession people, private investigators and the like have many channels for finding people. Talking to ex lovers/partners, ex employers, visiting the usual places you visit: the gym, library etc. This is a human-to-human trail of information that makes up your “history”. You have to sever ties and activities that can be used to trace back to you.
The paper trail. From your credit cards, they know what type of movies you watch, what type/size of clothing you wear, the food you eat, the clubs you frequent, the music you listen to, your medical prescriptions purchased, etc. Then there are phone bills, cable bills and other bills with your personal information on these records: phone numbers, addresses, birthdates, etc. Part of destroying a paper trail is completely physically destroying any bills, phone numbers, PC hardrives, writings, photographs, yearbooks and anything like this from your apartment or home. It is especially important to destroy photographs of yourself, as sometimes the newest ones around the homes of recently disappeared people are the ones posted in the media. Take all of your old clothes and put them in the nearest Goodwill donation box.
Social media. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter etc contain far too much of our personal lives already. Getting rid of your online digital trail is a lot harder than getting rid of your paper trail. People have asserted that even after you commit “Facebook suicide”, they keep your data on their servers indefinitely. No wonder conspiracy theories abound that social media is a honey pot for authorities. Finding you in real life is a lot harder and uses a lot more resources than snooping on your digital trail. If you know you are going to disappear, you could use social media to proactively disseminate false information.
Creating Disinformation: Scrambling Your Trail
Liar, liar, pants on fire. Create false information. This is the next logical step after destroying as much of your physical history as possible. This is the point where you seem to authorities to have vanished into many different directions all at once. What you want to do is make them squander all their resources running around in circles on bogus information.
Lay a false trail. The best bet is for you to make it look like you went to the place you had most talked about visiting, and going to the one place as far away from that as can be, that you never told a soul about. Tell everyone that you are moving somewhere, or going overseas to teach English as a second language, joining the Peace Corps, or going tree planting with some volunteer non-profit. If you don’t have a Facebook profile, create one a and load it with all kinds of fake disinfo and set the privacy settings way down to zero so that you are 100% visible. (again, do the opposite if you already have one with legit info)
Change your style. Buy a new set of clothes in a style that you wouldn’t normally wear: if you are a blue collar type, wear business clothes, if you are always in jeans, wear dress pants. It is best to break all habits you have, like for eg, if you smoke try to quit this, or change your brand. Changing hair color and facial hair is an obvious thing to do, and change your glasses for contacts, or if you don’t wear glasses, wear sunglasses. Changing your walk, or even body shape by loosing weight etc, is also a good tactic. Learn a new accent, and be aware of every one of your little mannerisms that might tip off your pursuer(s) who will likely be assumed to be desperate. Maybe even learn a new language and assimilate into an ethnic community somewhere with a false name.
Leave a fake banking trail. One of the best things you can do is take your ATM cards and mail them to very trusted people in cities all over the country to make withdrawals on your behalf just to run them around in circles. For example, make it look like you are generating activity in the Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Portland, Tacoma etc., while all the while you are soaking up the sun in the Florida Keys, they would assume you are on the other side of the continent.
Take advantage of the blabbermouths in your life. Make a list of the biggest gossips and vengeful ex’s you know and pump them up with bogus info.
Resurfacing In The Underground Economy
Reborn. After the trail has ran cold, and you are ready to assume a new name, new appearance, new habits, lifestyle, etc., the hiding in plain sight begins at a point where you will be a new you - “reborn”. The most complex aspect of this is acquiring the documentation for this, which is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, can be done in stages when you are feeling safer and have a clearer mind. The whole purpose of disappearing and dropping out of sight is to protect you from clear and imminent danger and to give you some breathing space so that you can gain some options and increased perspective, not to mention, buy some time.
Cash only! There are innumerable ways to make enough money to live on by getting or creating a job that pays under the table. The underground economy is your base now. Avoid using cash a check places as many of them are honey pots for authority. It is a well known fact that Western Union, for one, shares info with the DEA, DHS, etc. (this is how Canada’s “prince of pot” was busted)
Accommodation. You really want to avoid any sort of thing which requires you to have anything rented or leased in your name. Renting a cheap loft or basement apartment off of a mom and pop homeowner is safer than renting from a property management company which will require a lease and credit checks. Plus, if you live out of a suitcase, it is easy to move around and leave on a moment’s notice if need be. Use Google street view to scope out potential new neighborhoods and apartments. If you have access to a vehicle in someone else’s name, you could even live out of your car in the summer months in a National Park!
Transportation. Since gas is getting more and more expensive as is the costs associated with running a vehicle, there are options such as bicycling or public transit or cabs. Riding a bike, renting a cheap flat and having a cash-only job with no bills in your name will make it really hard for anyone to trace you.
Communication. Pre-paid anonymous cell phones. Full stop. Either that or get pre-paid phone cards. Most countries allow you to buy prepaid mobile phones that don’t need to be registered to a name or address. Once you get your prepaid sim card, only top it up with cash and do not give out the number to anyone!
Mail. Using so-called “mail drops” or mail forwarding services are invaluable as well, as long as you pay cash for these and any other services. Use a “mail drop” or “mail forwarding service” like Earth Class Mail. They offer several street addresses which you can have mail and parcels forwarded for you. Bill collectors receive notification of your Earth Class Mail address which will confuse them where you are really residing