Want to Disappear Forever?

by | Jan 6, 2021 | Anonymous Living, Anonymous Travel, Fugitive, New Identity | 1 comment

It’s never been easier for people who want to disappear and don’t need a magician.

 

 

 

A dozen websites advertise their ability to help anyone who wants to disappear.

 

 

 

Remove Yourself from the Internet, Delete Background Check Items, get a Clean Online Record, and Delete All Your Info.

 

And suppose you are willing to leave a retail trail online. In that case, you can order books including How to Disappear from the Internet Completely While Leaving False Trails: How to Be Anonymous Online and How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails And Vanish Without a Trace.

This broad availability of techniques designed to confound investigators and searchers like you may be frustrating and disturbing.

But the good news is that the more you know how individuals attempt to vanish from sight or obscure their identity, history, assets, and whereabouts, the easier it becomes to reverse engineer their efforts so that an individual’s online footprint reappears.

Based on insights from Thomson Reuters experts, skip tracers, privacy experts, and private investigators, here are 10 steps that crafty individuals believe they can use to vanish from the internet, along with competing strategies that you can use to return these invisible people to stark visibility.

 

#1 Social media is a searcher’s best friend

The first advice that privacy consultant Frank Ahearn gives in his book How to Disappear is for individuals who wish to hide to stop their activity on social media.

They advised them to shut their social profiles down entirely if possible. If you want to stay private, your first step is to take down your Facebook. Delete your Tweets, says Ahearn.

I can’t believe I even have to say that staying off social media should be a no-brainer if you want to disappear. All social networking sites offer juicy information.

The good news is that as long as the social media information hasn’t been deleted or made private, public records services such as Thomson Reuters CLEAR can quickly compile a picture of the social media activity of individuals you might be searching for.

Don’t forget the friends and family identified by these services. Many clients’ worst exposure is their friends and family. According to Michael Bazzell, author of Extreme Privacy: What It Takes to Disappear in America, friends may accidentally expose your home address when they post photos to social networks.

#2 Digging deep into misspelled names

Privacy consultants suggest that individuals who wish to thwart investigators sign up for cable companies, credit cards, and other services and then call customer service to claim their name is misspelled in the records. The goal is to change the initially accurate information with the wrong spelling. Let’s say your name is Arthur Aronson, says Ahearn.

Tell the service provider that they misspelled your name. Rinse, wash and repeat with all the other companies with your information, but try to change your name to a different spelling every time. Arturo Aaronson, Arthur Erickson, Armond Aaronson. The goal is to find every shred of information about you and change or destroy it beyond recognition, says Ahearn, who has helped hundreds of individuals vanish from the internet.

Ahearn says the next step is for the evading individual to tell the data source that the information on file is wrong and request a correction. But rest assured, even if the individual you seek painstakingly asks their phone company, fitness club, cable providers, credit card company, and other organizations to delete their accounts.

#3 Name Search engines 

Few but the most determined individuals will comprehensively delete every account that mentions them, and public records services retain information, making it more challenging to erase one identity.Products like CLEAR are designed to uncover information on a variety of names. We have sophisticated algorithms that look for precisely that scenario,†says Eric Gerhard, CLEAR’s product development manager.

When I signed up for my internet service, the provider spelled my name wrong, but the address and everything else matched, and the incorrect spelling of my name showed up as an aka/also known as in a search.If I were to get married, Gerhard and my new wife would change her name from her maiden name to a new name, and that new name would show up in CLEAR as an aka.

With public records databases, you can match the slightly misspelled name with other data, such as date of birth and home address, even if the name is slightly off.

#4 Synthetic identities or a late bloomer

Gerhard says CLEAR has a new synthetic identity component that examines factors that may suggest an artificial identity.

Such as the correct name and address, but the last digit of the social security number is off. Traditionally, our matching process wouldn’t match that because the information was a bit off, but now, instead, that flag.

Gerhard notes another tip-off to an attempt at synthetic identity: when new activity appears unexpectedly after years or decades of inactivity. Or when a driver’s license or credit card account seems like the first time for an individual who is 40 years old.

#5 When time is money, public records services give a time advantage

Searches take time and money, says Ahearn, predicting that searchers will eventually run out of cash or patience.

The budget for finding people is often the limiting factor, be it the cost of search tools or the hours required to find someone who wants to disappear. The good news is that public records databases accelerate search speeds, enabling each dollar spent to go further.

#6 The value of multiple data sources for searchers

It is possible for a person who wishes to hide to request that purchasers of data from third-party sources correct that individual’s personal information.

However, public records services compile data from so many different sources ranging from fishing, firearms, explosives, and hunting licenses to data from all three major credit bureaus that you still find identifying information on everyone except those most passionate about staying off the grid.

Will individuals be able to erase their names from data drawn from gas, water, fuel oil, electric, and other utilities nationwide and thousands of different data sources?

It is hard to entirely scrub an existing profile of an individual’s life without creating a brand-new identity, and a service such as CLEAR makes that process even harder.

#7 Hiding physical residences

In his book, Extreme Privacy: What It Takes to Disappear in America, Bazzell explains how individuals who wish to disappear can rent a personal mailbox (PMB), a new personal address for any mail delivered in a person’s original real name.

Bazzell says that as you update your mailing address with various institutions, they will begin to report this change to the major credit bureaus and data mining companies.

Your credit report will likely show this new address within a month. People who wish to disappear aim to get your name associated with this new ghost address. We want your trail to start directing people toward a mail-receiving company instead of a physical location where you reside, adds Bazzell.

Because of the multiple sources they aggregate, public records databases can help a searcher uncover a physical address despite the subject’s efforts to hide it.

#7 Every vote counts

If your subject has registered to vote, you have another opportunity to find them. In his book Extreme Privacy, Bazzell warns that I no longer recommend that my clients (who wish to disappear) register to vote.

This is simply because it is impossible to protect your voter registration details from public view. If you are registered to vote, your name, SSN, DOB, and PMB address are now public information. These records may hold the key to finding someone trying to disappear.

#8 Going mobile: the value of motor vehicles for searchers

There is a reason that CLEAR archives 164 million motor vehicle records. Privacy experts realize it is tough to erase a person’s motor vehicle ownership.

Your current vehicle, which is likely registered in your name and address, can never be made private, laments Bazzell. You could request a new title under the name of your trust, but the history can never be erased.

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is already in dozens of publicly available databases. Experts like Bazzell advise individuals to hide their VIN by retitling their vehicle in the name of a trust, but public records databases can still uncover the vehicle’s history.

#9 Betrayed by a photo

In his book How to Disappear from the Internet: How to Be Anonymous Online, author Raymond Phillips warns individuals that the Exchangeable Image File Format (or EXIF data) stored behind every image they take with their camera and post on social media can include the date and time the photo was taken, the make of camera and, in some cases, the individual’s geolocation.

With enough pictures and time, cautions Phillips, People can easily find a pattern and know where you have been and where you are likely to be going. When a database retrieves images for an individual you are searching for, you can pull out EXIF metadata and map it using publicly available EXIF viewers.

#10 A butterfly collector will always be a butterfly collector

Leave behind the hobbies and routines that characterized your old life, advises Ahearn for individuals who wish to be challenging to find. When I was a skip tracer, he adds, I always used people’s hobbies to locate them.

A public records search can reveal a passion for travel (such as an airline pilot’s license), a love of fishing (such as a fishing license or ownership of a boat), and other avocations, which are invaluable in identifying and locating someone.

Individuals seeking to hide from a searcher may change their home address, bank account, and workplace. Still, it is psychologically more challenging to change a deeply ingrained, life-long hobby. Once a Star Wars collector, always a Star Wars collector.

In Ahearn’s words, If you are going to disappear, stop doing everything people would expect you to do.

And if you, as a searcher, want to find someone who hopes to evade you, use public records search to identify a hobby or passion. Look for the activities you would expect an individual to keep doing, even if their name, employer, and social security number have been changed.

What is the final lesson you can learn from people who genuinely want to disappear? It is more complex than ever to vanish in America, and public records services are a key reason why, with the right tools, a determined searcher can track down virtually anyone who becomes a person of interest.

How to hunt down people — even if they don’t want to be found.

I think everyone should have decent online stalking skills. Not because I condone stalking, but because knowledge is power — if you don’t know how to find people online, how do you know what people can find about you online?

Googling yourself is like checking your credit report for inaccuracies: it’s only effective as a preventative measure if you do it thoroughly and routinely. Whether you’re looking for yourself or a friend (no judgment), here are five tips for finding out anything about anyone online:

Plug everything you know into Google.

It doesn’t matter how little you know about the person you’re looking for; your search will start with Google.

And it should be because Google is a powerful tool (especially when you know how to use it). But if you don’t know anything, particularly identifying the person you’re looking for (such as their email address), it’s better to skip the fancy search hacks and go straight to plugging in keywords.

Open up Google and type in keyword format everything you know about the person; for example, “Sarah Los Angeles writer tech.” Even if you only know their first name, keywords related to their job, marital status, location, and school will likely bring up social networks or other identifiable results.

Use Facebook’s People Search.

If no social networks pop up in your initial Google search, you may need to go into the social networks themselves.

Facebook is the most popular social network and has the most robust search engine, so you should probably start there. Facebook’s People Search lets you search for people by filling in one or more search boxes: Name, hometown, current city, high school, mutual friend, college or university, employer, and graduate school.

If your subject has no social media presence, try to find their friends and family members; they may hide their accounts behind a fake name. If you have no idea who their friends and family members are and you know their full names, use a free people search like Intelius to look up relatives…and then hunt down those relatives.

Make connections.

Individual data points don’t mean anything unless they can be connected to other data points to make up a person’s online presence.

Once you have several facts about your subject, you must use your brain to make connections and fill in the blanks. For example, if you know your subject’s name, job title, and location, you can probably find their LinkedIn profile.

On their LinkedIn profile, they’ve probably listed their undergraduate degree and when they graduated from college, which means you can work backward to figure out approximately how old they are.

Remember, people are not very creative.

You may have hit gold if you can find someone’s username, Twitter account, personal email address, or YouTube profile.

People, for the most part, aren’t very creative when mixing up usernames (or passwords), so they’ve likely recycled that username many times over.

Start by plugging their username into Google, but also look through social networks, forums such as Reddit, and blogs for old comments or posts.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

People recycle usernames, passwords, and social media profile pictures.

Grab their profile pic from their Facebook or Twitter account and plug it into a reverse image lookup such as TinEye. TinEye will scan the image and then spit back all other instances of that image that it finds on the web — this is a great way to find now-defunct social media profiles, old LiveJournals, and online dating profiles.

You can also use Google Images to do a reverse image search by going to Google Images, clicking the camera icon in the search box, and uploading the image you want to search.

Amicus International Consulting can provide the support, guidance, and expertise needed to navigate the treacherous path to acquiring a new identity.Contact us today.