How to disappear

by on June 15, 2009 at 7:11 am in Law | Permalink

Tips from a teacher (markets in everything):

There are three key steps to disappearing. First, destroy old information about yourself. Call your video store or electricity company and replace your old, correct phone number with a new, invented one. Introduce spelling mistakes into your utility bills. Create a PO Box for your mail. Don’t use your credit cards and the like.

Then, create bogus information to fool private investigators who might be looking for you. Go to one city and apply for an apartment. Rent a car in another one.

The next, final step is the most important one. Move from point A to point B. Create a dummy company to pay your bills. Only use prepaid mobile phones and change them every month. It is nearly impossible to find out where you are unless you make a mistake.

Is that last sentence so reassuring?  What is his success rate?

Usually, I don’t hear back from my clients. It would be too dangerous.

I occasionally wonder that if I had a) a new identity, b) enough money to live on, and c) a willingness to live abroad and no family for them to threaten, how long would it take a team of ten professional hit men to find me.  What would be their optimal strategy of pursuit?

For the pointer I thank Henry Farrell.  Here is Henry's interesting post on the surprising success of smoking bans.

Addendum: Bruce Bartlett refers me to www.escapeartist.com.

dearieme June 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

You’d have to avoid being pohotographed lest image searches come up with you in the background of somebody’s holiday snaps. Or wear one of those Muslim tent things.

Tom June 15, 2009 at 8:43 am

“I occasionally wonder…”

Less than one day – the longest you can go without posting on MR.

anon June 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

This is a very old story. Makes me worry about FT’s abilities to spot trends….

OK, maybe it was just a slow news day. Or a reporter doing his own research.

Zamfir June 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

I suspect browsing habits are pretty unique fingerprints, if you can get access to that data. But making a few changes there might be enough to disappear in the masses.

In a sense, that’s the problem: for every trick you are aware of to find you, you can find a decent countermeasure. But there might always be some trick you forgot.

babar June 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

how do the two threads reconcile?
when smoking is outlawed, only outlaws will disappear into a cloud of smoke?

David June 15, 2009 at 11:11 am

The author claims to have located 50,000 people in his 20 year career as a skip tracer. Let’s see, that’s 2500 per year, or about 50 per week, or about 10 per business day. Either he’s exaggerating or finding people is not be very hard.

Phillip Huggan June 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

If you have law on your side disappearing is probably bad thing; disappear them to prison. If you have money just bribe, no need for fake ID. Another strategy is Lucky Number Seven cocooning into your own property and provoking confrontation on your terms.

Eric H June 15, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I believe Tyler would be unable to resist looking at his Amazon wish list. Surely the server drones at Amazon could be bribed/extorted/threatened.

sourcreamus June 15, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Offer a reward to the staff of the best asian restaurants in south america and the best south american restaurants in asia. Tyler would be found in less than two years.

ElamBend June 16, 2009 at 7:40 am

The first key is never let your address be connected to your name. A great book is “How To Become Invisible” by J.J. Luna.

Candadai Tirumalai June 16, 2009 at 9:56 am

bbartlog: you are right about the identification.

Ian June 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Phillip, Tyler asked “how long would it take a team of ten professional hit men to find me.” We’re scripting quasi-possible mafia movies in our heads, here.

Note: don’t post pictures online — face recognition software is getting too commonplace. It might help to tweak your appearance. (e.g. glasses < --> contacts, grow a beard, let your bangs grow out, etc.)

Julius June 18, 2009 at 9:23 am

“I occasionally wonder that if I had a) a new identity, b) enough money to live on, and c) a willingness to live abroad and no family for them to threaten, how long would it take a team of ten professional hit men to find me. What would be their optimal strategy of pursuit?”
Occasionally? You’re a really odd person.

non June 30, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Luna’s book How to be Invisible is quite idiotic. He doesn’t know much! The book sells on a catchy title alone.

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