How To Disappear Completely Without A Trace
I’m not here to question the reasons why you want to disappear. I’m sure your interest in disappearing are complicated, diverse and very personal.
- Maybe you are a curious surfer, casually perusing the Skilled Survival site.
- Maybe you owe the mob a fortune in money you don’t have, and they’re going to break your legs and feed you to the sharks.
- Or perhaps you are preparing to do something so dastardly – so sinister – so illegal – you’re going to need to vanish from the face of this earth.
Whatever your motivation, be it for good or evil, the following is a guide to disappearing entirely.
Disappearing Is a BIG DEAL
It’s an action not to be taken lightly. It scares people and raises a lot of attention amongst authorities. In some special cases where your life is in danger, there are government agencies and professional services that can help you obtain a new identity legally.
However, if circumstances require it, and you must take matters into your own hands; then this guide is for you.
It’s a last desperate measure, but if you are really getting ready for the Great Vanishing Act, all on your own, then I wish you Good Luck. You’re going to need it.
Preparation Is Key
Disappearing takes time. If you were hoping to split town as soon as you are done reading this guide, get ready to be disappointed.
There are multiple steps involved with disappearing, and the more time spent preparing the better your chances.
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But, sometimes the choice to disappear is forced upon us in a rush, for which case this section has been broken up into two parts.
The Long Game – Creating Your Master Plan
First off, start distancing yourself from others.
You need to slowly start cutting ties to your old life. This means seeing friends and family less and less over time.
Continue this until process slowly until eventually you don’t really see each other at all. At that point, they won’t have any reason to expect to hear from you. This process will require you to lie a lot. Get used to it.
Making excuses and weaseling out of family plans will seem like child’s play once you start lying about your own character. This venture requires you to fib, deflect and mislead almost constantly for the rest of your life – until the lie becomes your new reality.
If you aren’t prepared for that, you’re not ready to disappear.
Start withdrawing all your money.
Your days of Visa, PayPal and Venmo are over. You are a cash only person now, and you need to get ALL of your money out of the banks.
Do this slowly, so as to not raise any eyebrows. Over the course of several months start withdrawing varying amounts of cash from all accounts under your name. Do this until they are all completely drained.
When done you should have a fat stack of cash tucked away in a hiding spot, some closet or crawlspace. Having no money to your name makes the disappearing process much more challenging. So if you’re truly broke, start saving now. You’ll want to save as much money as you can between now and vanishing day.
Kill your social media accounts.
Deleting these accounts won’t truly erase your information. They have databases of your past information that can be obtained by authorities. However, it’s still a smart way to start detaching yourself from the information grid as best you can.
So say goodbye to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, and even email accounts – it is wise to delete everything. Once again, do this SLOWLY, otherwise, people will take greater notice.
Do you have any pets?
You’ll probably need to take them to a shelter. Or allow a friend or neighbor adopt them under some other pretext.
Pets cannot come with on your disappearing adventure. They will raise attention and make you more recognizable.
However much you love your animals, they’ve got to go, and it is more humane to put them up for adoption/give them away than it is to abandon them entirely.
It is one of the many harsh reality of the Great Vanishing Act, but it is one you must accept.
Quit your job or request time off.
Just before your big breakaway, you’ll need some time to make last minute preparations. You’ll also want a head start before anybody begins questioning your absence.
If you don’t quit ahead of time, your current employer will be the first to notice your missing. So make certain your employer think you quite or at least taking a nice long, much-needed vacation.
Be as thorough as possible.
Try to avoid a lease on your residence if you rent, so landlords don’t come looking. Or start paying a couple months in advance to buy time when you do leave. You’ll want to do this well ahead of time to get them used to you paying several months at a time.
Tell your neighbors you’ll be on vacation for a while (also perhaps even give them a false lead as to where).
Tie up any and all loose ends you can think of to give yourself more time to travel and escape before the search is on.
The How To Disappear Short Game
Compile all of your identification.
Get every school ID, drivers license, birth certificate, social security card, and bank statement. Collect anything with your name, and definitely your picture, all in one place.
There are different theories as to what you should do with these documents once they’re collected: Some sources say you should keep them. Some say you should get rid of them.
Whatever you choose to do with your ID’s and personal documents is up to you, but once again, be thorough. Don’t leave anything behind, whether you take it all with or burn it in a bonfire: leave no trace.
Destroy your pictures and avoid new ones.
It sounds drastic, but photos of you will be your own worst enemy. Family members may start going door to door and store to store carrying a recent photo of you from the life you’re trying to flee.
The process of eliminating photos and avoiding getting your picture taken also makes it clear to family and authorities that you wanted to disappear. That this was a conscious decision. You weren’t murdered, you weren’t kidnapped – you chose to vanish.
It may seem counterintuitive but trust me, it will work in your favor. If the cops think you disappeared by some malicious or accidental incident, they will search harder for you. If they get the sense that you left on purpose and went to great lengths to plan it they won’t search as hard.
Cancel your mobile phone plan.
It’s of no use to you now. You are a fugitive, not a social participant. If you really need one, buy a burner phone under an assumed name.
Ditch your car.
You probably had some good times together, but few things are more traceable and recognizable than a person’s car. Sell it for cash. Of if it’s not worth much, leave it running, unlocked, in a bad part of town, with the deed in the glove box and let some thief do all the work for you.
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More Tips and Tricks On How To Disappear
In the book, “How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found” by Doug Richmond, he suggests the following…
Search for babies who died the day you were born and contact the government requesting their birth certificate. He emphasizes that this is normal because people lose birth certificates all the time.
Now use that document to acquire a social security number, drivers license, and other personal documentation.
With that, move to a busy city, rent a small apartment and spend several months developing a short employment history. Mainly with temp jobs or construction gigs.
Then once that is established simply walk out the door and never return. He calls this Pseudocide – or, faking your own death.
However logical this may seem to some, remember this: our government, now more than ever, is on the lookout for terrorists. They will take notice of anyone who is trying to falsify identities and get into the country to wreak havoc.
This book was written in 1995 – a lot has changed in the last two decades.
Requesting personal documentation under a false identity from the federal government is highly illegal.
This behavior will have some immense repercussions today should you get caught.
Instead of disappearing on your own terms, masked special forces might blast through your window late some night, bag you, tag you, and ship you off to Guantanamo.
That’s called disappearing on their terms. Not good.
Getting the Hell Out Of Dodge
You thought the preparation was complicated? Well, to do this right you need a good bug out bag when you make your break.
Limit what’s in your “go bag” to the bare necessities. Such items such as essential medical supplies, personals, small tools, a change of underwear and socks, et cetera.
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Change up your personal appearance.
As much as you treasure that favorite t-shirt and jeans combo, ditch them.
Go to a cheap clothing store and buy several outfits that you would NEVER normally choose. Dye your hair, but don’t pick a crazy color. If you’re a natural blonde go brunette and visa vera. Wear a new hat – hats are great for concealing faces. Choose a hat that you’d never be caught wearing in your old life, maybe that’s a Fedora. Also, practice using new mannerisms and try to mask your old mannerisms as best as possible.
It is likely that people will already be looking for you – and it is possible that someone might recognize you anyway. You need to make a stranger of yourself. But don’t make yourself strange; you need to blend into a crowd as well as mask your own identity.
This means you can’t stick out or be remembered. Be the background. Stick to the shadows. Act normal.
Travel on your own terms.
Covering distances by foot or by bicycle are your best options. These forms of transport cannot easily be tracked and do not require licenses or ID’s to use.
Public transportation (i.e. buses, trains, subways, etc.) are acceptable, just remember a lot of these are under constantly video surveillance.
And under no circumstances do you take a cab or hitchhike. When you get into a car with someone else at the wheel, you have just put your entire situation in their hands. They may recognize you and contact the authorities, or crash the car and get the police or EMT’s involved.
Travel on your own terms; don’t ever let someone else manage your great vanishing act.
The further, the safer – the more isolated, the better. Head for the border or get way out of town.
If you are in the US, your best bet is south. And I’m not talking about Mexico. While it may be a developing country, and it may even be “easy” to get to without an ID, Mexico is a lousy safe haven and is currently rather tumultuous.
If crossing the border is out of the question or outside the realm of possibility, travel as far as you can. There are lots of isolated or busy locations that do not require a passport to get to, just be warned: it is usually easier to find someone on the run if they haven’t left their home country.
But whether you flee the country or hide amongst us, you must go somewhere people will not expect.
If you’ve always dreamed of visiting Jamaica, then definitely do not go hide there. If your family is from South Africa, that’s off limits to you. Find someplace unpredictable. It doesn’t have to be a place you’ll be unhappy, or uncomfortable, it just has to be a place that you’ve never spoken to anyone about ever before.
This is a good point to lay some false leads.
When you leave home, place clues like road atlas maps or do extensive internet research that leads investigators in the completely wrong direction. If your destination is actually Nome, Alaska, then leave books, maps, and research for Los Buzos, Panama all over your house when you split. False leads will buy you time.
Another important decision at this point: big busy city, or tiny isolated town. There isn’t really an in-between option here. The easiest place to disappear is either in the midst of a throng, or the emptiness of the natural world.
Rent a small studio under an assumed name in a city full of hundreds of thousands of people. Or vanish into the woods and build a house on the outskirts of a tiny town. Maybe you even go full Jeremiah Johnson and live off the fat of the land in the heart of the wilderness.
Whatever you decide, just remember: this may be your home for a while, so choose wisely.
The New You and Your New Life
Disappearing is more than just running away and covering your tracks.
If you want to disappear forever and never be found, the implication is that you, your character, your mannerisms, your likes and dislikes, hobbies, and ideas ALL DISAPPEAR.
This is without a doubt, the most difficult and most important step of the process. Be an actor. Your identity must change to its core.
Create a character history.
You must learn to naturally answer all the following questions should anyone ask:
- Where did you come from?
- What did you do before?
- Where is your family?
- What kind of food do you like?
- What is your favorite beverage?
- Who’s your favorite author?
- Your favorite musician?
- Favorite food?
Bottomline: Recreate everything
Of course, making new friends will eventually be necessary. No matter where you end up, neighbors and locals will become a part of your life, and it isn’t wrong to make friends with them. Just make sure to do so under your assumed identity.
Hell, having people who can confirm your name and backstory might even be helpful in this situation. Especially should the relevant authorities come snooping in your new location.
So don’t be afraid to meet people, just be afraid of revealing your true identity.
Becoming Comfortable and Falling Into Old Habits.
Don’t do it! Stay on your guard at all times – paranoia can be both a curse and an invaluable tool.
Watch yourself, and do everything you can to avoid old habits.
Contacting people from your past.
NEVER DO IT. I guarantee the urge will grip you at some point.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to visit, call, write, email, IM, or otherwise contact your family or friends to let them know you’re okay.
They are not part of your life anymore. And any form of contact between you is a step towards discovery and ruin.
The lure of personal success.
I can understand the appetite for success. Some people cannot stifle this hunger – to be better, and have more, and get recognized.
It is something that man cannot bury, cannot completely suppress.
Maybe you went from being a successful stockbroker or businessman before your life on the run. Or maybe you used to write books.
Whatever your draw, success is something people are driven towards, and it isn’t necessarily to be avoided. You can still be successful in your life on the run.
Your new identity can still find prosperity and recognition – just not for the same talents or reasons as you had in the life before. Find new hobbies, new interests, new skills you never knew you had and exploit those.
Stay under the radar but don’t be confined by your exile.
Moving is OKAY.
Moving is even encouraged after a while. If you can, change your name for the first few moves. This should become easier in less developed countries, but if it proves to be an issue, travel by nicknames.
Make following your trail as confusing as possible: are we looking for Juan? Or John? Or Peter? The more you move the harder it will be to find you.
Above all – Stay safe, stay alert, and stay disappeared.
Further Resources For Research and Preparation
One article isn’t nearly enough information to get truly ready for an effort of this scale. I’ll reiterate: Disappearing is a big deal.
It has repercussions that reach beyond your own life.
No matter how detached you may feel from the world around you, someone will eventually notice. Once they do, it’s a countdown to pursuit. The better prepared you are, and the more you have studied, the more time you will have to complete the Great Vanishing Act in its entirety.
My recommended resources to continue your “How To Disappear” research:
- How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found. Referenced earlier in the article, this book is slightly outdated but still full of some useful information and ideas. It isn’t useless, just a little old – (and sort of a dry read, according to many).
- How to Disappear: The World’s #1 Guide to Disappearing – Written by guys who used to track others.
- How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace. – Another, more modern guide, written by authors who used to hunt runaways. Covers everything from tools for disappearing, to eliminating any and all of your tracks, misinformation, disinformation, and reformation.