The Right to be Forgotten

Known as the digital hitman, Frank Ahearn is hired by the wealthy and famous to make things disappear whether online or through an illusion he creates – By Heba Hashem – Global Citizen

Frank Ahearn is as close as you can get to disappearing without using illegal documents or fake passports. Originally an undercover investigator for large corporations, the digital hitman, as he is known, learned about skip tracing – or finding people – from another investigator.

“The idea of picking up the phone and extracting information such as bank, phone and airline records to hunt someone down was fascinating to me,” he says.

As privacy laws changed and made it more difficult to locate such data, Ahearn switched sides and began to help those who needed to disappear. The turning point came by total coincidence when he met a would-be client in a bookstore.

The man, who was looking for books about discretion, offshore banking and living in Costa Rica, proceeded to pay for them with his credit card, a huge red flag that could lead to his whereabouts. Ahearn casually approached him and explained this, winning his very first client and signalling the start of a lucrative new business.

“It turns out he was a corporate whistleblower and concerned about repercussions,” he tells me from his office in Manhattan during our chat.

Ahearn’s clients come from all walks of life but they are not necessarily criminals or those with a murky past. One of his Middle East clients, for example, was a partner in a business that had fallen on hard times and during that period, his father died, leaving him a significant amount of money.

While his partner assumed he was going to use the money to bail their company out of debt, the client knew it would be a losing situation to put more money into the business. So he felt it was best to close the firm.

Outraged at the decision, the client’s partner became extremely aggressive. “Things started to happen, like his car getting scratched, broken windows at his home and soon it escalated into serious threats. The client felt it was best he disappeared because he believed his ex-business partner would cause him harm.”

While all this trouble was taking place, the client was trying to build an online business and needed to stay in his home city until the project was complete. Ahearn had him sell his apartment and move into a holiday rental that had all phone, television and utility services in the apartment owner’s name and not the client’s.

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