In this digital age as everyone is being tracked by websites, cell phones and loyalty programs, privacy seems to be a hard commodity to hold onto. Privacy expert Frank M. Ahearn is the “Dear Abby” of disappearing; he can help you regain your privacy by teaching you to poof and fall off the grid.
Disappearing is not the same thing as escaping and always being on the run. But who better to help an individual go underground than a person who spent part of his life working as a professional skip-tracer, hunting people like Monica Lewinsky down, locating people for lawyers, investigators, and tabloids? The art of ghosting comes down to who is better at it, your ability to disappear or the hunter's ability to track you.
Frank M. Ahearn and Eileen C. Horan co-authored How to Disappear : Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace. The book can teach you how to leave, how to get from point A to point B, how to bank and to buy things. A person must relearn how to communicate by using a prepaid phone and prepaid phone cards, pick up free wireless, use disposable memory sticks on a computer and leave no trace. Technology is a double-edged sword, it can be used against you, to trace you, or it could be used for you, like to move money around the world with a click of a button.
Ahearn says that the reasons men and women want to disappear are usually very different. For men, it is often finances such as if he lost everything but has some seed money to start over, or if he has come into money and wants to disappear before family and friends attempt to suck him dry. Dangerous situations are usually the reason women want to disappear, such as when she is being stalked or in an abusive relationship.
He also suggests New Zealand is a great place to start a new life because it's an English-speaking country that is far away and has great beaches. Ahearn's website, www.disappear.info, offers other great tips about how to vanish without a trace. Your old life and new life must never connect. His book will help teach you to become a virtual individual.
In a Radio Wammo interview, Ahearn spoke of the electronic trail and digital footprint most of us have with social media profiles. Even if you delete that profile, we don't know for sure what a company does with that data. Ahearn suggests to start deviating your information, slowly changing it over to bogus information which will be picked up by other sites, until you can fake your online death. Even if a private eye looks for you, false remnants of your data will be the only trail.
So I asked Frank Ahearn: what I'm curious about is that it seems like to disappear, a person must jump into unlawful conduct?
Ahearn: Quite the opposite, I suggest never breaking the law since this brings a new predator at your door step. One can legally disappear through the use of corporations and offshore corporations. The idea is to embrace technology and to become a virtual entity.
If a person poofs and lives virtual, then wouldn't that same person be wanted for not paying Federal or State taxes?
Ahearn: If the person makes an income they need to file their taxes. The deal is if you art not wanted by the law keep it that way. No matter what at the end of the day you gotta pay the man!
When a person hires you, for a seamless transition from Point A to Point B, has that person broken the law immediately by either traveling through the backend into a country (say New Zealand) or by having a bogus passport?
Ahearn: Never! I would not be in business if I assisted individuals in such fraud. I only work with people who have a legitimate reason to disappear not a criminal wanted by an agency. My clients range from victims of stalkers needing help, celebrities seeking more privacy and other types.
Are your services included in getting that new identification where the disappearee would never need to worry that the provider of info would blackmail them or hand that info over to the highest bidder?
Ahearn: I never provide new identities - for several reasons. It is illegal and the minute you travel using the documents you have broken the law. Opening up bank accounts under another name is identity theft and filing taxes under a fake name and identity is a crime as well.
New identities are misunderstood for example you buy documents from someone how do you test out the documents to validate they are real. How do you know the number on the passport is an actual number let alone matches up to the name on the passport? Also how do you know the person who sold the document did not sell the same identity to ten other people? As you are walking through customs they just might stop you because the same person left the country three days prior?
Even if that person never engages in criminal behavior after that, wouldn't that individual be facing charges IF they were ever found?
Ahearn: No law against disappearing - you just can't fake your death and profit from the insurance or avoid child support.
Does that simply go with the territory with going underground, a trade-off, if a person wants to disappear and stay "missing?"
Ahearn: Nope, going underground, falling off the grid, living under the radar and disappearing can be done legally. That is what I explain in my book How to Disappear.
So it's legal and could give you the ultimate privacy? Frank Ahearn could teach you how to disappear, how to erase your pesky digital footprints by leaving false trails, and how you could vanish to a beautiful New Zealand beach. Sounds tempting.
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- Big Brother's Creepy Little Brother Snoops as Productivity Tool
- Verizon's 2010 DBIR: Rise in Misuse, Malware and Social Engineering
- I Can Stalk U: Geotagged Pics Worth More Than 1,000 Words
- Certified Lies: Big Brother In Your Browser
- Google CEO Schmidt: No Anonymity Is The Future Of Web
- Google Super Spy Eye-in-the-Sky: Total Information Awareness
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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