On my blog last week I posted how I located a person’s employment via Facebook. I guess Facebook did not like it; they closed my Facebook account. Not that ever used it for anything but hunting people.
Here I am doing a little skip tracing and trying to find out where a subject works. What looked to be a dead end turned out to be a score. The usual contact information and online searches were a big zip. I popped the subject’s phone number into Facebook, and their account came up. Unfortunately, the about page was blank. So, I sifted through the photos, and one photo brought the gold. The subject was reclining with a supersized soda and next to the food bag was the subject’s work ID. One call to the company and the employment confirmed. It pays to review the identifiers in your photo.
CHAPTER TWELVE – How to Disappear from Big Brother
When you are living in your new patch of land and you meet the butcher, the baker and the vodka and orange juice maker you need to have a story to tell. It is natural for the people you meet daily to have a curiosity about you. You cannot tell them you are a victim of a stalker in hiding, running from the mob or disappearing from BIG BROTHER. Revealing the truth is nothing but dangerous.
When In Doubt Lie!
This chapter brings me to the story of Elvis Parsley who was a realtor by day and an Elvis freak by night. Elvis went looking for love and found his very own Pricilla on an online love site. The long distance love moved quickly and Pricilla shacked up with Elvis forty-five days later.
Not long into the cohabitation Elvis realized he had a lunatic on his hands and requested she go back to where she came from. Pricilla was having none of that. Elvis needed the help of the long arm the law to evict her from his home.
Forcibly removed from the home Priscilla had no intentions on leaving town. She immediately morphed from a graceful beauty to a wildebeest’s void of a soul. Priscilla took up residence in a motel, at the end of the road. She turned Elvis’s world upside down, wrecked his business and destroyed his nightlife as Elvis the karaoke master.
Elvis reached the point where he knew he was fighting a losing battle and needed some peace of mind. He figured getting out of dodge was his only hope.
When I met Elvis, my primary concern was his Elvis persona. He spent much of his time doing karaoke, trading memorabilia online and visiting conventions. That world needed to end but he resisted.
The unfortunate reality of disappearing is you need to leave the people and things you love in the dust. If you do not leave, habits and hobbies behind you, you will be located because of them. Everything behind you is a potential rat.
Elvis decided not to use my service and ultimately disappeared on his own. He dropped the Elvis act but kept the nickname. Not long into his disappearance a local reporter wrote about a charity event and the locals who supported the cause. The reporter mentioned Elvis in the article but instead of Elvis Parsley, it identified him as Elvis Jones, Jones being his real last name. It did not take Priscilla the crazed stalker long to arrive at his door. I guess Elvis may have left the building but Priscilla followed.
Be aware of your environment and assess all aspects of your situation. Who and what can be a threat to your freedom. Elvis should have never let his photo and name become part of a news article. He could have made up an excuse that he had a phobia of getting his picture taken. Then walk to the other side of the room. As crazy, as it sounds’ claiming a phobia is better than doing nothing at all. Always have a story or excuse in your hip pocket.
A backstory is a simple mis-identification tool a disappeared person creates to avoid the truth. When you meet new people, the curiosity comes alive and they want to know information about you. Where are you from, what you do for a living, married, divorced, rich, poor and so forth? This is the foundation of building relationships. If you want to survive in your new world and create some sort of life, you need a story to tell. Being the strange loner in town or the oddball neighbor only creates curiosity.
How to Lie With a Lie in Your Hip Pocket!
Now comes the story of a Darla who had some local fame in her hometown. Darla fell in with the wrong crowd and landed on the outs with her mental case boyfriend. Darla knew it was time to get out of town before she met with an unfortunate ending.
The issue with Darla was she happened to be popular on the music scene and so she needed to avoid that life. She also sported a retro Joan Jett look, which she did not feel comfortable changing. Keeping the Joan Jett style and moving to a small town in Iowa was unrealistic. She would have stuck out like black on white rice and become the curiosity of the neighborhood.
I had to address the issue of her minor claim to fame. The concern being, what if someone recognized her and approached her. A situation like this could become problematic. Imagine someone posting on Facebook that the Joan Jett look-a-like singer was in the Des Moines mall buying or selling lipstick.
After changing her style a bit we discussed the recognition issue. I felt it was best not to deny that she was Darla who sang on the stage but to switch up the conversation immediately. Instead she would claim that she was her own doppelganger and admit she knows who Darla is and it is freaky they look so much alike. It is risky but I believe that sometimes it is better to engage then deny and walk away. The hope is that it defuses the curiosity.
I had Darla use a different first name and profession in her new life. If a person from her new world asked what she did for a living, she explained that she is a style consultant and works with Eastern European musicians. I built a detailed website with a reasonable amount of social media to make the information appear real. Darla carried business cards with contact and website information.
Darla picked a stylist background and Eastern Europe geography because she toured there for a few months and felt comfortable chatting about that world. If someone in her new world looked Darla/Tina up online, they would find the website I created about Darla and her business. This helped to satisfy the curiosity in her new circle.
When creating a lie it is best to do so with points of reference. If you are telling a lie about Belize, at least watch a movie or read a book about the country.
Study your backstory! You will look like a super dumb ass and a liar if you do not know what you are discussing. The best lies derive from threads of truth.
In the fine art of pretext (lying), I utilize point of reference lying. I grab from various truths in my life and capitalize on the information I know. When pretexting on the phone I would talk about places I have been to read about or seen on TV. I would talk about the beach or how beautiful Cuba is and the amazing sunsets there. I have never been to Cuba but I have been to the beach and watched the sun go down.
When in Doubt Be Cool, Be Zen and Lie!
If a mall meeting happens, there could be a breach in your disappearance. The person you met could have twitted about you, which could be an issue. With some luck, they do not but you need to find out. Most important in your information recon is you never, ever, never, ever, ever, never, search your name online, never!
Searching your name online could walk you into a trap. In an upcoming chapter, I will tell you about someone who faked his death, searched his name online and walked into a trap.
If you happened to fake your death, remember do not create digital footprints and connect yourself to the search. You have someone else do the search. Take a long bus ride, and contact your third party source and email them instructions that for the next thirty days they are to search your name every day. Avoid telling your third party you are the subject of the search. Always keep your distance.
Each day your third party assistant will search the net for the information you requested. If they get a hit, instruct the assistant to copy and paste the information on to the third party website. You do not want to click the link. What is important too is to let the third party assistant think you are a writer writing a story or you are searching for a friend. This will ease their curiosity.
An alternative way of receiving your information is to have the outsourcing company fax the information to a virtual fax number that you forward to a public fax or to a disposable email address.
If You Click The Link, You Will Sink!
Unless you are living in a shack in Maine or a cave in Tibet, you will run into people daily. The people you run into will be part of your circle. They will come to recognize your face. If you want to avoid the circles, you can do the spy thing and never visit the same place twice but that can be a difficult way to live. It is better to have a good back-story.
What you want to do with peoples curiosity is to control where they search. This is why for the tenth time I am saying you need a back-story. Not just a story you tell but also a backstory the people in your circle can confirm. Better to have the snoop find Frank M. Ahearn fashion photographer then Frank M. Ahearn privacy expert.
Who Are You Website
Just like Darla had a website about her fake employment. You are going to create a WHO ARE YOU website. This website will be a site you can share with the people in your new circle. This way when you are sipping drinks on Anton Martin in Madrid and the barkeep becomes friendly. You can slip him a card with your website information and satisfy the hombre’s curiosity.
I cannot stress the fact enough that your background should be something you know about. It should never be a direct hobby from your previous world. If you were on the bowling team in Spokane or London, you do not want to pose as a professional bowler. The two worlds of past and present could collide.
You could be derivative and claim you sell shoelaces for bowling shoes. If that is your back-story, build a website all about shoelaces for bowling shoes. The back-story should be developed and live on the internet before you go.
Say you decided to be consultant with Skul-Tryon LLC. On http://www.SkulTryon.ccc you will create two owners, Thomas Skul and Melissa Tryon. Each will have nice bios and there will be detailed information about the company and services. Do not post your photo or photos you have taken. Pictures of you can be located via sites like TinEye.com. The photos you have taken could be Geotagged.
Wiki – A geotagged photograph is a photograph, which is associated with a geographical location by geotagging.
IMPORTANT, do not include your name on the website; your predator will locate you! This website is to establish a back-story in your new world. Company websites do not list all employees so do not list your name.
You could have the title Director of Sales with an email address only using your initials FA@,DirestorofSales. This is the email address on your new business card.
For the website phone number use a virtual number or cheap answering service. Make the background of the company deep with a lot of social and digital information.
SOCIAL: Each of the executive names on your website should have a Facebook account, LinkedIn account and other social accounts. This will make the backgrounds look more realistic also create a few husbands, wives and fake Facebook friends for your coworkers.
NOTE: Facebook and Gmail request phone numbers to confirm identity and will send you a text code. Use your prepaid cell phone and change the number to use again. Other sites request a phone number but do not send a text code, provide them with a bogus cell phone number and all will be good. Note many prepaid cell companies let you change your cell number up to five times before charging. Consider this before buying your phones. After you used the cell phone number to set up the accounts dump the phone and SIM.
Never Provide a Phone Number That Can Connect You!
BLOG: Have a little fun and create blogs about your bogus company. You can even include some press releases about the company. The idea is to make the company appear legitimate and have a reasonable online presence. If you cannot write, locate a similar type company and copy their blogs but change all identifiers.
When you purchase your domain name, it is important to use a bogus name and email address when registering. The reason for this is when the domains expires the name you provided will be associated with the account.
Keep in mind, we exist in an instantaneous society where all is available at our fingertips. To a degree, we expect information on the people we meet to be readily available to satisfy curiosity. When information is not available, we become more curious and that curiosity is the danger in your life. People gossip and most of us at one point or another have played internet snoop. Therefore, it is important to dazzle them with some good deception.
Back in the day, skip tracing (finding people) was mostly picking up the phone and pretexting (lying). However, the digital world has created new and creative methods for locating people. I do not mean the use of database information but more so, social information combined with some fine pretext.
Recently, I had to locate a subject who was once a stage actor in Lichtenstein. He dashed out of the country to avoid a serious lawsuit and supposedly settled in Lisbon. The subject’s phone numbers were long disconnected and the address provided was a mail drop. Utilizing a variety of skip tracing methods, I was able to figure out the subject was no longer in Portugal. The trace looked like it was going to be a dead end. However, when all else fails, Google it!
I discovered that the subject had a Facebook page and confirmed the identity via his city of birth and university. The Facebook page still listed Lisbon as his current city. I sent a friend request and a note stating, I am a college journalism student interested in writing an article about him for my class. Naturally, I friended him from a female profile. A week went by with no response and again, I assumed it was dead in the water.
Late the other night, I received a message of interest from the subject and the chat began! I have learned over the years, that if you feed into someone’s ego, greed, vanity, or other interests, they tend to respond. As we chatted, I fed deep into his ego and he gave me his email address, along with some heavy flirtation. I asked if it would be possible to speak with him on the phone so I can hear his intonations when he responds to the interview questions. He liked this idea and so he provided me with a mobile phone number for me to call. Perhaps man has yet to evolve.
I wasted no time and the following morning, I called him and posed as a delivery person. I claimed I had a package from the name and address of his old agent. I did not even say what city I was in or street I was near. He jumped at it and provided me with an address. I explained that the package was for a home delivery and not commercial delivery. I say this to avoid a mail drop address. I waited ten minutes and called again. I stated the address shows as a commercial address. He assured me it was his home address and he will arrive home in one hour. I believed him but confirming information is key. So, I threw some other skip tracing tricks in the mix in order to confirm and it was his current home address.
Sometimes I like to include a moral of a story. However, this skip tracing moral is quite obvious on so many levels.
Frank M. Ahearn
I often think about the line from The Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…” This is how I feel about skip tracing, no matter what happens in my life I somehow end up back in this business. Not that this is a bad thing but I will admit there is a love, hate relationship. I love the act and art of skip tracing. The research part is challenging and the pretext aspect feeds my creative. It is the business side I dislike but I will refrain from discussing that element.
For a person like me, there is something cool about looking at information and trying to make sense of it. Which pieces will lead me onward to the road of discovery. It is like trying to create order and form in a world with no boundaries as well as connecting the non-tangible to the tangible. To a certain extent, it is taking lost information, or I should say the left behind information and reuniting it with the reluctant owner.
Unfortunately, the type of skip tracing I am currently working is too easy. That is not to say I find everyone but most. It is like searching for a lemming, most have the same pattern whether it is New York, Monaco, London, Luxembourg, or Auckland. The only barrier in skip tracing is the language but most times I can work through that. Although, Eastern European countries can be difficult but most are fair game.
I began skip tracing in the mid-eighties and not much has changed. There are databases which has alleviated the need for the hundred pounds of Coles Directories. This statement is no doubt showing my age. The internet has also alleviated the need for Directory Assistance, which was a huge expense each month. Social Media has created a new area of search. Basically, skip tracing has not changed much.
But my dilemma. I feel like a hunter who has engages in small game. The deadbeat, the guy who needs to be served, the long-lost-love and similar types of skips. I need some big game, something challenging, something to get me away from my desk. Something that brings me to the hills of Italy or the shores of Greece. I need that search where I do not know if I am going to locate the subject in an hour in Kamloops or Oslo. I am tired of looking at the skip’s information and thinking, piece of cake.
Then again, am I looking to search for a person who mysteriously disappeared, a potential abduction, the con artist on the run or the one who may have faked their death. I guess I am looking for an odyssey or a skip tracing pilgrimage. Something to feed the need, any ideas?
Lately, I have been focusing on the skip tracing business because on a day to day basis it is far more exciting than the privacy business. The privacy work is cool and can be real exciting but there is something to picking up the phone and hunting someone down.
I think I have always had a love/hate relationship with skip tracing. Back in the early days it was like the wild west, no laws really stopped a skip tracer from pulling phone records or bank records. It was much of an underground world. I think the love/hate stemmed from being involved and successful at something that would eventually have to end. Not that all skip tracing had to end but the illegal aspect of pretexting phone companies and financial companies did.
The key to skip tracing today is knowing how to piece together information. Such information being database information, online information and offline information. Database and online information should be used with caution because it is not always up-to-date or accurate. Offline information, like closed service accounts are always useful and sometimes provide specks of information not available elsewhere. I believe a good skip tracer knows how decipher the useful information and string it together to figure out the direction of a skip.
However, how one goes about skip tracing is somewhat immaterial to how they confirm the results. Just because a database shows a subject living at Plaka, Elounda or even having current utilities on Riverdale Avenue in the Bronx, does not mean the subject is actually at that location. One of the terms never allowed in my office is, that’s what they said. Just because that is what they said, does not mean it is up-to-date, correct or even true.
I believe that a skip should be confirmed with information and verbal. Therefore, if I locate an address of a skip I then go for the verbal confirmation. What I do is, I pretext the skip with a water damaged box delivery and I misspell their last name and street name. If they correct me, it usually means I got them.
I do a reasonable amount of skip tracing (locating people) for finance companies and global law firms. Recently I have been asking my clients what is their in-house skip tracing process.
1. Send a letter by post to the subject.
2. Call the phone number in the file.
If neither of these are successful, the client will use an online database. If the database report provides an updated address and phone number.
3. Send another letter.
4. Call the new number.
I am against using databases in the skip tracing process. Much of it is regurgitated and not necessarily accurate. The other issue is that just because a database shows a subject living on 10 Main Street, it does not mean the subject is currently located at 10 Main Street. Databases are based on past information so there is no verification of the here and now. Even if the utilities, cable or phone number is registered to your subject.
Let me point out that some of the larger companies do not call the phone numbers on file and relied more on postal communications. This is a short sighted way of skip tracing, since some individuals move and do not forward their mail but much of the time do keep the same phone number. Also, sending a postal letter is a passive way of locating people, this would include a registered letter as well. A letter sent only proves a letter was sent, it does not reveal if a person is or is not at an address.
The first rule in skip tracing is to call Directory Assistance from a mobile or landline phone. Sometimes directory Assistance is more current and you may get a hit on the subject. You would be surprised at how many people I have located in a matter of minutes by making the Directory Assistance call.
Remember, if you do get a hit via Directory you need to verify it is your subject and your subject is currently at that address provided. A simple pretext can answer that question. “Hi, this is Max from ABC Shipping, we have a water damaged package for Mr. Jones, J.O.N.E.Z.” I misspell the subjects last name and if I have the right person, he or she usually corrects me. I always ask for the zip code, the building number and then the street name. Sometimes the subject will get paranoid and halfway through the pretext stop providing information. if I have the zip code, I now know what city. If I have the zip code and building number, I can easily locate the street name.
So, before you go on the hunt, try the Directory Assistance call, you might get a hit.
Frank M. Ahearn