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How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace Hardcover – September 1, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1599219776 ISBN-10: 1599219778 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First Edition edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599219778
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599219776
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“It may shock the hell out of you. It did me…. I couldn’t put this book down, finding out all of the ways anyone could get their hands on information about any of us. You’re more vulnerable than you may think.” - Tammy Chase, Chicago Sun-Times

From the Inside Flap

Frank M. Ahearn built his first career by finding people who didn’t want to be found—from philandering celebrities to a certain White House intern (Monica Lewinsky) before anybody had heard of her, as well as countless cheaters, frauds, and bad guys. Using the “skip tracer” techniques he developed in the process, Ahearn embarked on a second career counseling those who wanted not to be found. If you’ve ever fantasized about disappearing—literally dropping out of sight or just eliminating the traceable evidence of your existence—How to Disappear is your guide.

In a world-wise, straight-talking, wryly humorous narrative, Ahearn provides field-tested tips, tools, and techniques for maintaining privacy, as well as strategies for protecting personal information and preventing identity theft. You’ll learn key tactics such as misinformation (destroying all the data known about you), disinformation (creating fake trails), and reformation (getting where you want to be without leaving clues). Throughout, Ahearn shares real-life stories of his fascinating career—from
nabbing adulterous celebrities to helping abuse  victims find safety.

An indispensable resource not just for those determined to be anonymous, but for almost anyone in the brave new world of online information, How to Disappear sums up Ahearn’s dual philosophy: Don’t break the law, but know how to protect yourself.

Customer Reviews

Very well written.
Linda M. DeFord
A book about shady things by a shady guy with a shady story to tell.
- Garry -
Repetitive and boring.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While I have my doubts that one can disappear completely without "special assistance" (as in government help or an extreme amount of money), there *are* some ways to make it a lot more difficult to be found by non-government officials. Frank Ahearn and Eileen Horan cover a lot of that information in their book How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace. This is not a large encyclopedic manual on how to eliminate your existence; rather it's more a handbook on how to make it more difficult to be traced (and a lot more expensive for those determined to do so).

I'm Frank. Nice To Meet You; Meet Your Enemy - The Skip Tracer; A Skip Tracer's Best Friends; Time To Disappear; Misinformation; Tracks And Clues In The Home; Disinformation; Your Reformation Arsenal; Reformation; How Not To Disappear; Disappear From Identity Thieves; Disappear In Social Media; Disappear From A Frog; Disappear From A Stalker; Disappear From The Country; Pseudocide 101; Final Thoughts; Acknowledgments; Index

Ahearn was a professional skip tracer, a person paid to track people down. Using both legal and illegal methods, he was usually able to find whoever he was going after as they nearly always left a trail of some sort. In Disappear, he takes the other side of the equation and talks about what someone would need to do to make it more difficult and expensive to find them. While some of them are obvious (stop using social media, don't use your credit cards), others are more tricky and require some time and effort (and money) to put into place. For instance, in one case he had a person open a small checking account and the ATM card was given to a friend who traveled extensively.
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276 of 305 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on October 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A book such as How to Disappear : Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace, scores very high on the cool factor. Ultimately though, it's one of those books that details things you should not try at home.

Author Frank Ahearn is a professional skip tracer; which is a person who locates other people. The term comes from the word skip being used to describe the person being searched for, and comes from the idiomatic expression to skip town, meaning to depart, perhaps in a rush, and leaving minimal clues behind for someone to trace the skip to a new location. Often these people are wanted by the government, family, spouses, or other authorities.

The book is touted as the "authoritative and comprehensive guide for people who seek to protect their privacy, as well as for anyone who's ever entertained the fantasy of disappearing - whether actually dropping out of sight or by eliminating the traceable evidence of their existence". Those are a number of very different goals.

For those who seek to protect their daily privacy in the physical world, the book provides a lot of good, high-level insights.

Since the author admits he isn't a technology expert, the book doesn't offer significant input on how to ensure online privacy, short of saying that one shouldn't use social media. Readers wanting to protect their online privacy can use effective resources such as CDT's Guide to Online Privacy for such topics.

Most people want to protect their privacy, and while many do entertain a fantasy of simply disappearing, the reality is that true disappearance is extraordinarily difficult and fraught with risk.

At 197 small pages, the book is a quick read and covers all of the key points.
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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend "How to Disappear" as a follow up to "How to Be Invisible" by J.J. Luna. How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life (Revised Edition) teaches how to ensure your name is not linked to your home and vehicles using nominees and corporations. "How to Disappear" teaches how to waste the time and money of your pursers.

The lack of specific advice in "How to Disappear" for keeping your location absolutely secret gives a false sense of security. Frank recommends using corporations (pg. 88). However he doesn't give specific advice like J.J. Luna does. Frank does not mention New Mexico in "keywords for building your corporation." New Mexico is the only US state not requiring LLC members to be registered. I believe you're putting yourself at great risk if your name and location is tied together in any database.

This book gives unnecessarily restrictive advice about using computers. Frank says "never use [your new computer] to access the internet from your home." (pg. 90) I strongly disagree with "Not recommended: anonymizing software" (pg. 68) and the implied recommendation to use the WIFI at a café or bookstore. Frank doesn't recommend anonymizing software because he doesn't know if it's effective. Proxies and Virtual Private Servers (VPN) are generally effective at not immediately disclosing your IP Address and geographic location. Many providers claim to permanently protect your identity by not logging your IP Address, see "Torrent Freak: Which VPN Providers Really Take Anonymity Seriously?
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More About the Author

Frank M. Ahearn offers numerous services in the privacy world. What he does is so unique; it can be difficult to define because each client presents a different issue that needs a singular and creative solution. In fact, his value lies his ability to fabricate one-of-a-kind solutions to one-of-a-kind problems.

Mr. Ahearn works with individuals who need to learn how to disappear, fall off the radar or have extreme privacy needs. He is an expert at vanishing people, creating high-net-worth-privacy, travel privacy and foreign state privacy. Law firms and private asset companies worldwide utilize his unique disinformation and stratagem services.

For the past thirty years, he has been in a business that resembles a game of international hide and seek. In the early years of his profession, he was a skip tracer (located people) and information broker (sold gray information) who utilized pretext to extract information from individuals and corporations. In 2001, Frank made a drastic change and walked away from the information business and his focus became privacy.

Frank M. Ahearn is the author of three privacy books How to Disappear From Big Brother, The Digital Hit Man and The New York Times Best Seller, How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace.