How to Disappear: 20 Tips

Note that completely disappearing can range from possible (the people looking for you have limited resources and limited skills) to virtually impossible (ie: the government wants you). Depending on your threat model, here are some tips if you want to leave and never be found…

  1. Start planning a year or so in advance. This gives you plenty of time to work through your plan and get your ducks in a row before you head out.
  2. Determine if you need to get away or completely disappear. As an adult you don’t need to answer to anyone, you are free to go where you want (unless, of course, you are hiding from the judicial system) and can avoid contacting anyone from your previous life if you want to. On the other hand, if you are in a particularly sticky situation (domestic violence, mob informant, etc) there are agencies that can help you disappear (see also WitSec).
  3. Stack cash starting immediately. And don’t make it obvious. You don’t want to withdraw your entire paycheck every two weeks because that will draw attention so take smaller amounts of money out of the bank, sell stuff for cash on OfferUp or FB marketplace, etc. and squirrel your money away bit by bit. Also, use cash to buy prepaid visa cards occasionally. Obviously, you want to store this cash and cards in a super secure location until you need it.
  4. Don’t leave a trail of your “how to disappear/where to disappear to” research on your computer/tablet/phone. Some ideas for safer surfing here.
  5. Buy a Pixel phone, with cash, along with an anonymous prepaid mobile sim/plan, then let these items sit for several months before turning the phone on (not while on your home network!), installing the Graphene OS to the phone, then activating the pre paid sim when you are about ready to disappear. Also, keep this phone turned off and in a faraday bag when not in use.
  6. Ditto a laptop. Same stuff as above but install the Linux OS, never do this when on your home/work network, and keep the device off when not in use. An important note, once you are gone, you never, ever access any of you online/banking/etc accounts ever again; if you do this you will be easily found.
  7. Slowly remove yourself from social media and people in general. If you are the most social person on social media and/or in person then you suddenly disappear, your absence will be noted (and probably start a nationwide search!). If people don’t really know your schedule or expect you to be around, they are less likely to know you are missing.
  8. Be consistently inconsistent, all the time. Again, if you are always at the same place at the same time doing the same thing and suddenly you aren’t, that will cause people to worry. If you are usually travelling, working odd hours, and not really attached to any place or activity, your disappearance will be more likely to go unnoticed. You will also want to quit your normal 9-5 and start doing a variety of cash/temp jobs so your co-workers/employer don’t report you missing.
  9. When you do leave, you leave behind everything–credit cards, vehicle, home, etc. Take only what can fit in a non-descript backpack and leave via untraceable public transportation.
  10. When you do relocate, move (a few times) to a city where you can blend in (small towns are notoriously gossipy and your every move will draw the attention of the neighbors).
  11. Come up with a new name, new back story, new hobbies, new habits, new look, and possibly new ID (the legalities of this vary from very illegal to legal if facilitated by certain government agencies).
  12. Consider how you will earn money. Working for cash in a way unrelated to previous ways you have earned an income is probably your only option if you wish to remain untraceable as opening any kind of financial account leaves a trail directly tied to your name/social security number.
  13. Depending on how desperate someone is to find you, you may have to move often.
  14. You will need to master the art of omission and deception. Your backstory has to be rock solid in your mind, you need to answer immediately to your new name, and when people are talking about travel or their childhood or any other topic you know like the back of your hand, your two cents needs to be made up, generic, and not provide any information that can be used to identify the real you (this is harder to do than it seems).
  15. You will need to live a very unstable life. Unstable housing (renting a room for cash as opposed to renting in your name or owning property), unstable work (cash only), unstable travel (no foreign travel as using your passport will give you away), unstable transportation (walk, bike, moped, bus as opposed to renting or owning a car).
  16. Some things to never do once you leave: never access your email or online accounts ever again, never use a bank ever again, never contact any of your former friends or relatives ever again, never own property that can be linked to you ever again.
  17. You will need to remain “grey man” for the rest of your days. Anything that is unique to you–your face, your gait, your particular hobbies or skills, your accent, your personality, your habits like smoking, the clothes you usually wear–can make you memorable and thus easier findable so you will need to change all of these.
  18. You will need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Again, depending on how determined someone is to find you and how persistent they are, you will always be looking over your shoulder and will always need to be able to grab your stuff and go with little to no notice. Can you do this?
  19. A bunch of pitfalls…if you own property (like a house or car) and don’t sell it before you leave, this may causes several issues. If you disappear and someone like a spouse gets you declared dead so they can cash in your life insurance, this can be construed as fraud. You can’t take your kids or pets with you (pets who are microchipped can identify you, kids can be reported as kidnapped if others report them missing). If you were a high-earning expert in any field, that life (and income, and prominence) is now gone. You want to pay off any bills/child support/legal fines/etc. so your disappearance doesn’t become a legal case.
  20. And some other things…once you are disappeared, you want to stay far away from the legal system (something like getting pulled over by the cops can get you arrested/identified/and into an easily searchable database). You want to avoid ANYONE taking photos (your face showing up on the front page of the local newspaper or randomly on Facebook can lead people directly to you). You want to have a lot of cash at your disposal but carrying a lot of cash can make you a prime target for robbery (or even civil asset forfeiture in some cases!). Any relationships you develop will be based on lies.