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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making it harder and more expensive for someone trying to track you down...
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...
Published on December 5, 2010 by Thomas Duff

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a total waste of time...
While not a total waste of time, the book is a combination of the obvious (don't use your usual credit card or call with your usual mobile phone) with the somewhat ridiculous (setting up multiple drop boxes which forward to different addresses depending on the return address of the package), glued together with some tough-guy sounding fluff. There are some good ideas...
Published on November 26, 2010 by Thomas


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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Making it harder and more expensive for someone trying to track you down..., December 5, 2010
This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (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).

Contents:
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. The friend made small charges in various cities, making it look like the person was moving around a great deal. He coupled that with a visit to a different city to look at apartments and have a credit check run. Any skip trace looking to find the person would have to pursue those leads, all of which would lead to dead ends. Yes, the skip trace may eventually pull the right thread at some point, but the costs to the person looking for you go up significantly.

If you take the information in this book for what it's worth, it's a good reference tool and a fun read. Thinking this is the equivalent of the Witness Protection Program "how-to" manual is a mistake, as it's not. And if the federal authorities are after you, there's little in here that will keep them at bay for very long. But if you're trying to disappear from the annoying ex or a crazy who has a beef with you, How To Disappear might be the key for keeping a step or two ahead of them.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed
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272 of 301 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting reading, but don't try this at home, October 13, 2010
This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (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. The book does have a lot of good details, but isn't the definitive text, as the devil is in the details, and many of those details are missing in the book. The person who truly wants to disappear would need an expert like Ahearn to work with them, rather than simply relying on the book alone.

The danger in a book like this is that it may lead someone to attempt to disappear on a whim. That is a great way to get themselves in a fine mess, often ending up in more trouble than before their aborted disappearance attempt.

The book focuses on 3 key areas: misinformation (destroying all the data known about you), disinformation (creating fake trails) and reformation (act of getting you from origination to destination without leaving any clues).

Some of the books ideas are similar to the federal witness protection program. In the federal program, witnesses are encouraged to keep their first names and choose last names with the same initial in order to make it easier to instinctively use the new identity.

Like the federal witness program, the books notes that in order to prevent the possibility of someone being followed, they should use a convoluted and indirect transportation path before finally reaching the location where they will live under the new identity. This path often involves a long chain of seemingly random routes which are intended to be difficult for a skip tracer to find or anticipate.

The book includes numerous stories of real-world scenarios in which Ahearn was involved with, and shows how to avoid their mistakes.

Many people envision disappearing as being on a beach with endless beers. Ahearn paints a reality involving endless use of disposable cell phones, cash cards, and remote mail boxes. But that is a lonely existence most people don't seem ready for.

Can someone really change themselves? Yes, but it's very expensive and difficult to hide without changing your identity and you certainly cannot hide from the government without changing your identity. The book is ultimately for someone who has a lot of money, as there is no way to create a new life on the cheap.

The book doesn't detail how to create a completely new identity in a new location, something that seemingly only a witness protection program can do, and mainly is about leaving false trails so that those looking for you can't find you.

For the person contemplating disappearing, they must ask themselves if they really want to live a life of endless prepaid phone cards and prepaid credit cards, using only free wireless and disposable USB memory cards as the book suggests. The book is about ensuring that one's old life and new life don't connect. After a few months of that, most people will likely be quite lonely.

The author notes that most people want to disappear for two main reasons: danger or money. Some people deal with stalkers, abusive ex-spouses or someone who came into money and doesn't want friends or family to locate them.

In a recent interview, Ahearn suggested New Zealand is one of the best places to disappear, as it's a long way off and has great beaches, is an English-speaking country and it's easy to acclimate to life there. But for a lifelong Red Sox fan do they really want to root for the New Zealand Warriors rugby team? Does the person understand the cold reality of vegemite?

Ultimately this is an interesting, but impractical book for the vast majority of people. Can one disappear? Perhaps, but it's getting harder, even with an expert like Ahearn. Perhaps the biggest deterrent should be Google StreetView. Even if one moves far away, StreetView is there, ready to announce your location to the world.

For most readers How to Disappear : Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, and Vanish without a Trace will be an entertaining book that does have valuable information.

Ultimately, for those considering disappearing, they need to understand the implications of loudly shutting the door on their way out of society. They should contemplate that before they take a course of action they are likely going to regret.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to Screw With Your Pursuers, May 29, 2012
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This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
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?" I believe you should always use a VPN to ensure your ISP and network sniffers don't know what sites you're visiting or what information is being sent back and forth. Frank says "Don't Google yourself once you've hit the road" (pg. 121) because usually your IP address says where you're located. Using a VPN deals with this problem and could make your pursers waste time looking for you in the location tied to the VPN's IP address. Frank contradicts himself saying "Sign up for Google Alerts associated with your name and email address" (pg. 196).

The statement "be careful with toll-free numbers" (pg. 151) is not comprehensive enough. The receipt of call with masked caller-id can unmask it using TrapCall and/or Flowroute, google "How to Unmask Caller-Id (Asterisk)"

There no mention of the risk posed by security questions for bank accounts, e.g. "What's your mother's maiden name?" I know a physician who had over $100,000 stolen because the thief knew his mom's maiden name and social engineered the rest of the needed info. I recommend giving wrong unguessable answers to security questions.

I enjoy "How to Disappear". However I think you should implement J.J. Luna's advice first. Frank's advice is great for screwing with your pursuers. If you run websites etc and like screwing with the enemy I also recommend Aggressive Network Self-Defense. For those who love computers I recommend Secrets of Computer Espionage: Tactics and Countermeasures.
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69 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Read!, September 10, 2010
This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
Like many people, I have no desire to disappear. Yet I am immensely curious of two things: 1 - what information the Internet and the world has on me and 2 - If one wanted to, how can they properly get up and go without being traced? How To Disappear provides both answers. The book has an amazingly in-depth outline of erasing your digital footprint. Something that adds to it's charm is the author's method of delivering this fascinating information in a way that is easily understood and at many times truthfully humorous. It is not just a "how to" guide. It is much, much more. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious about disappearing (even if you do not want to), determined to disappear, and someone looking for a great read!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a total waste of time..., November 26, 2010
By 
Thomas (Seattle, WA, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
While not a total waste of time, the book is a combination of the obvious (don't use your usual credit card or call with your usual mobile phone) with the somewhat ridiculous (setting up multiple drop boxes which forward to different addresses depending on the return address of the package), glued together with some tough-guy sounding fluff. There are some good ideas sprinkled around, and the chapter on escaping stalkers and the like seemed worthwhile. (Without that I would have given 2 stars.) All in all, a book twice or thrice the length it should have been, which will be of absolutely no use to most people, but with a somewhat interesting peak inside a world most never come across.
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66 of 85 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has some helpful hints and is worth reading., September 5, 2010
By 
D. C. Wornock (Texarkana, AR United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
If you wish to disappear and not be quickly and easily found it has many helpful suggestions on how to avoid the many common mistakes making people easy to find and how to leave false trails. For that it is worth buying. However, the authors deliberately avoid any discussion about changing your identity.

As the authors point out, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it is very expensive and difficult to hide without changing your identity and you certainly cannot hide from the government without changing your identity.

The authors have no experience or expertise about changing your identity so they avoid the issue by claiming it is a bad idea. They do offer one suggestion. That is, to pay someone in an impoverished country $2,000 per year to borrow their identity. However, the authors offer no suggestions as to how to do that. Nevertheless, that one suggestion and examples of how to leave false trails and to avoid common mistakes, makes the book worth buying.

Otherwise, the book is a disappointment because, without changing your identity, as the authors point out, it will cost many thousands of dollars and an extreme amount of time and effort to hide from anyone willing to spend a few thousand dollars to find you.

Therefore, since the book offers no help in hiding from the government, is of little value to most people. The book is of primary value to wealthy individuals that want privacy from individuals (not government) wanting to find them and willing to spend $10,000 or more to do so.

If you are not hiding from the government, most people can just move and not be found since it is unlikely that anyone they know would spend several thousand dollars to find them.

The vast majority of people that need to disappear, need to disappear from the government due to some minor youthful indiscretions such as having sex at age 17 with their 16 year old girlfriend and being placed on the list of sex offenders until age 40 or having a criminal record for smoking a joint. For such individuals, other than the short hint about borrowing someone's identity by paying them $2,000 per year, the book is of no value. The government does not spend money looking for and tracking these individuals. However, their youthful indiscretions prevent them from getting a good job and having a normal life.
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51 of 65 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mostly just outdated anecdotal narratives, January 12, 2011
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This book is written in the style of a motivational seminar: Lots of little descriptive stories -- a large portion of which took place years ago, prior to the enactment of numerous state and federal laws that now prohibit disclosure of private information -- but no depth. Little if any current, useful, information. "Facebook" is only mentioned five times in the entire book, for example. I bought this because the Kindle edition was cheap, but even if it had been free I wouldn't recommend it to others.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to conceal your identity, May 20, 2014
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First thing, remove all publicly accessible posts from online sources such as forums, online message or image boards, Amazon revie-.... um... crap.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been distilled to about 10 pages, February 12, 2014
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This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
This info is a bit dated. The author just tells you basically what he would of done to find you when he was a 'skip tracer'. Unfortunately many of the things he got away with(eg calling cc companys to get your last transaction) would be much more difficult in this day and age. Also, many of the methods would not work against a more sophisticated attacker(eg govs). I wish I had not bought this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to do a vanishing act, April 29, 2013
By 
This review is from: How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace (Hardcover)
"How to Disappear" presents an interesting logic problem: If a man claims to be a great liar, do you believe him?

Frank M. Ahearn's book, subtitled "Erase your digital footprint, leave false trails and vanish without a trace," is supposedly a guidebook for people who want to go into hiding. Maybe you're avoiding an abusive spouse, perhaps organized crime is looking for you, or it could be that you just feel like abandoning your old life and starting anew - whatever the case, this book is aimed at you.

I find it hard to believe that there's enough people in this category to make much of a book market, but then again, how would you know?

*Caller: Hello. We're conducting a survey. Tell me, are you planning to disappear?*

*<Click>*

Given that this book, as I write this, is sitting at a lofty ranking of No. 7,843 on the Amazon sales list, perhaps there's more people who are looking to vanish than you would think. Or maybe the book has other appeals.

What I liked about the book were the anecdotes Ahearn tells from his days as skip tracer - someone who is paid to track down people who don't want to be found. This meant he was often looking for debtors, criminals or paparazzi-avoiding celebrities. To do this, he often had to "pretext" - that is, lie. He was good at that, he claims. "I was the best in the business," he modestly says.

Ahearn says he could call up any business - a phone, credit card, cable and utility company, for instance - pretend to be someone else and then talk his way into getting them to give up an address or phone number or some other helpful piece of information on the person he was pursuing. Ahearn claims he's gotten information from New York police and even Scotland Yard by calling up and pretending to be a cop. In another case, he called the mother of the person he was tracking, pretended to be a friend of her adult son and talked her into reciting the man's life story.

So, yes, Ahearn's pretty sleazy - if you believe he's as big a liar as he says he is.

As far as disappearing, Ahean has various tips, among them: Always use a pre-paid credit card and a prepaid phone. Hide assets behind a corporate name. Apply for an apartment in another city just to leave a false lead.

I'm not trying to disappear, so Ahearn's tips didn't interest me that much. And some of his recommendations for websites for finding information about people (including yourself) are so laughable you wonder if he's really a professional. He calls Zabasearch "the skip tracer's Promised Land." Seriously? Zabasearch doesn't even have my LISTED phone number.

The book can serve as something of a reminder of how much of your personal information is in others' hands. As Ahearn ticks through all the steps you need to "disappear," you realize how entangled we all are in digital recordkeeping. You leave trails every time you use a credit or debit card, make a phone call, go to a doctor, join a gym, order a prescription, send an email, surf the Internet from home, subscribe to a magazine or check out a library book.
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How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails, And Vanish Without A Trace
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