What are the secrets to vanishing and never being found?

Very interesting piece in the New York Times covers how criminals and those on the run evade their pursuers:

“You look in the obituaries,” Mr. Burton said, “in Topeka, Kan., say. You want a gas station attendant more or less your age. Once you get the date of birth, you call the county. ‘Hi, I used to live in Kansas, but I’ve been living in American Samoa for the last 20 years as a Christian missionary. Any chance I could get a copy of my birth certificate?’ ”

Should your ruse succeed and the certificate arrive, simply call a motor vehicle office and apply for a driver’s license. “All you need,” Mr. Burton said, “is one good piece of ID. The rest follows after that.”

Is a signature required? “Show up with your writing hand in a sling,” he said. “That way, when you sign with your left hand, your signature’s messed up.”

Are officials troubling you for fingerprints? “There’s a nongreasy glue, like a mucilage,” he said, that is more or less invisible once applied. “You put it on your thumb. You roll your thumb over your heel. Now, you’ve got a heel print on your thumb for no one who exists.”


“The best way to disappear,” Chief Chavarria said, “is to cut all ties with everything and everyone you know. But it’s very, very hard to sever ties.”


Naturally, money is the other chief ingredient in a successful disappearance — and the more you have, the longer you can last underground.

Mr. Ahearn, the author, suggested creating a corporation in a state where documentation requirements are lax. A pursuer may know your name, he said, but would have a hard time tracking you if your personal expenses were paid by See Ya Later Inc. — especially if you incorporate in Wyoming or Nevada, which a recent book, “Treasure Islands,” described as having slack incorporation rules on par with those in Cyprus and the Cayman Islands.

“Then you can work and live where you want,” Mr. Ahearn said. “In Texas, Buffalo, wherever. You pay the corporation and the corporation pays the bills.”

Ahearn’s book is How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace.

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