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.
How you go about combating your online information is extremely important. Pre-text may or may not be an option. It really depends on your confidence skills and your ability to come up with a workable pretext. When I say “pretext,” I do not narrow it to picking up the phone and gagging someone. Pretext can include an email claiming a photo of you is copyright-protected and insisting the website take the photo down.
In the skip tracing world we have what is called a one-shot deal, where you have only one opportunity to pretext. If you fail, you are shit out of luck and the pretext may just backfire. Remember Barbara Streisand? The one-shot deal business partner is Mr. Kick-back, one of those things you never want to happen. It’s when everything blows up in your face because the person or entity you did the pretext on just doesn’t believe you.
ONE SHOT DEAL
ONLY ONE CHANCE TO OBTAIN THE INFORMATION
WHEN THE PRETEXT BLOWS UP IN YOUR FACE
It is very important that you carefully consider the down-side to pretexting a website or simply requesting they take down your information. You do not want it to backfire, with the person behind the curtain deciding to call your bluff and the next thing you know, your pretext is the next big story on Jezebel. If the pretext route does not work for you, then you move forward and work the tools of deception.
When one utilizes deception as a weapon to battle online information, one needs to do so with the mindset of total war. Think of the websites as belligerents who post your information or your child’s information for the sheer purpose of making advertising money. What site doesn’t have Google ads or click-thru links? Your information is their inventory. The idea of total war is to
use all available resources to win the battle. My purpose is to teach you the Weapons for Waging War and Winning against the Digital Enemy.
The first step in combating your online information is locating all of your Digital DNA. The best way to categorize your Digital DNA is into five digital genes of information.
The Five Genes of Digital DNA
SELF is the information that you provided to third-party sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, online comments and any other sites where you physically participated in broadcasting.
PIV stands for Personal Information Violation, which is when someone posts your information or photo online without your permission.
DATABASE is the information that sells for $9.99 and typically consists of public records and other free online information.
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION is information that is protected, such as newspaper articles, photos and other content deemed as protected.
IMAGES are photos of you floating around in digital dystopia.
The next few chapters show you how you will play digital detective and hunt for everything that is known about you. The problem with information online is that it’s like an ocean where the tides and currents choose their time and direction. Therefore, once you locate your information, I suggest that you wait a few days and redo the search for information you possibly missed or that was recently posted.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN – How to Disappear from Big Brother
As a Virtual Entity I attempt to create a Go Bag in most foreign cities I visit. For me freedom is always the focus and the endgame. To disappear you need two items, financial instruments and travel documents.
You may not have the opportunity to travel but that should not stop you from attempting to acquire your disappear instruments online. Instruments being prepaid debit cards, prepaid money cards, foreign currency, transfer accounts like and online merchant accounts that accept credit cards.
In the past, the most difficult part of setting up virtual tools in a foreign country was the language barrier. This is not really an issue anymore since the creation of online translation tools but let us not place too much stock in their clarity. I suggest utilizing a third party assistant for translation.
Although, the best asset in any foreign city is a local realtor, they know all. What I do is search online for an apartment or house for sale. I do not search for a ten million dollar penthouse but something in the one or two hundred thousand range. I contact a local realtor and explain I will be visiting the city and I am interested in viewing an apartment.
You do not pick the ten million dollar apartment because this will make you a big fish to the realtor. The realtor will want to know all about you and will search you online. With this said you create a cover story before contacting the realtor.
Prior to heading to a foreign city, I create my fake online identity that I travel under and use for communication purposes. The identities I build are all self-employed.
Never, ever, never, ever, ever build a website and profile yourself as a licensed individual like a lawyer, doctor, accountant or other type of licensed individual. This is illegal.
Having a cover website will satisfy the curiosity of the realtor. Remember to do this work use your Third Party Assistant or from a computer where your identity cannot be connected with. After you make a connection with a realtor, you will hit them up for a variety of information.
My first question to the realtor is if there are local message boards like Craigslist or Back Page where I can place an advertisement for an assistant for hire. Most realtors provide me with websites where I can place the ad and they usually refer someone for the position. I thank them for the help but I avoid using their referral. I prefer to keep all contacts separate.
I review the message boards the realtor provided. If the boards are not in English, I put them through a translator and slowly make my way around. If the language barrier is too difficult, I use my Third Party Assistant to create the ad for me.
Businessperson searching for an assistant for one or two days must be bilingual and have a good knowledge of the city.
The majority of people who contact me are college students. I explain that I am setting up a business and I need them to assist me as a guide and interpreter. Having a motivated college student never fails. Make sure they know the different neighborhoods and the public transportation.
The reason I suggest hiring an assistant is to get to know the city. Sometimes being in new places it can be difficult figuring how the city operates. When I arrive, I have my local assistant take me through the city and teach me how to use the bus, trains and other important information I should to know.
You never know you could be in your new city three weeks and find yourself discovered. Having full knowledge of the city can aid in a quick escape.
I open a mail drop and pay one year in advance. With the mail drop, you do not want to have a P.O. Box drop you want an address drop like 123 Main Street Suite 815. In one instance, I was unable to open a mail drop and my college assistant allowed me to use his home address until I was able to locate a suitable mail facility.
Prepaid Cell Phones
Every country I land in I buy several prepaid cell phones from multiple carriers and I top up the time. Just a note some countries have cracked down on pay as you go phones and you now need to provide ID to obtain a cell phone. This should not be a problem since you will NOT go into the store and purchase the cell phone. Remember, the identification and cameras in the store create the digital footprint. Find a soul in need of a few euros or have your assistant make the purchase.
To keep track of my cell phones I write the country name and cell number on masking tape and place on back of phone. Then I tape over with clear tape so the ink does not run. If you have, numerous cell phones consider shipping the phones so you are not going through checkpoints with twenty cell phones. You may be wondering why carry the phones when you can carry only the SIMS. Carrying twenty SIM cards could prompt a red flag too. Another option is to leave the prepaid cellphone in your mail drop.
When in a new country hit the streets and find a bank that will open a checking or savings account for you. Search online or call the bank ahead to find what documents you will need. Also, find out which branch has a person who speaks your language.
The trick is before you go on your bank account opening journey; locate an apartment for sale in the city. Again, do not print out a ten million dollar apartment but something in the one or two hundred thousand range that will not draw too much interest.
After you have located a branch that has a rep who can speak your language, have the real estate information printed out and available for their eyes.
Mention to the banker that you are renting an apartment locally but plan to buy an apartment. Show them the listing, photos and all. Explain the reason for visiting the bank is you need to know if they provide homeowners insurance. Do confirm there is such thing as homeowners insurance in the country.
Nine times, out of ten, the bank rep will change the direction of the conversation and ask where you will be banking. Explain you have yet to figure that out. They will suggest you use their bank and they will become extremely helpful with the account opening process. The real-estate listing motivates the banker and sometimes they will bend on the paperwork like proof of residence.
Another tactic is to find a bank that has foreclosures for sale on their website. Begin a relationship with someone in the foreclosure department. Make sure the conversation moves in the direction that you will be paying with cash. This tends to motivate people and they will suggest opening an account at their bank.
The downside to foreign banking is many banks do not mail account debit cards. They want you to pick it up at the branch. In addition, some banks use Electron Cards that have no three-digit security code on back of the card. This means you cannot use the card for online purchases because 99% of website payment systems require the three-digit code. You can only use an Electron Card in person. I have an Electron Card from one of my banks and it can be seriously inconvenient!
Also, check the fees for withdrawing at an ATM in foreign countries. I made the huge mistake of using a debit card and not reading about the fees in advance. I used the card four times in a week and it was thirty euros per withdrawal. Ouch!
When you open a bank account in a foreign land, make sure your funds are avaiable 24/7 via your ATM card. One bank account I had only allowed debits on the card up until ten pm their time.
I have also come across banks that only allow wire transfers during work hour as well as limits up to 600.00 per transfer. With such limits, you will spend a fortune transferring your funds. I speak from experience.
When you open a bank account, it is wise to have an account in your home currency and the currency of the country. Before you open your account, inquire about wiring funds out of the country. There could be currency restrictions. For example, if you have a foreign bank account in your home currency and want to wire transfer your home currency funds to your home country there could be a glitch. Some countries only allow outgoing wire transfers in their local currency. This could cost you a lot of money in currency exchange. Read the small print!
When I travel to a country that offers PayPal, I always open an account. I also try to get a local prepaid debit card to connect to the PayPal if possible. Note you do not need to be in the actual country to open a PayPal account for that country.
For the PayPal account, you will need an address. I do what I can to open a mail drop on the spot. If you are unable to open a mail drop, use a hotel address until you can secure a mail drop.
One of the reasons I have PayPal accounts in different countries is so I can use the Buy Now buttons on my website. This allows me to accept credit cards payments in various currencies parked in different countries. I look at the various PayPal accounts as a multiple currency savings accounts. Some days I accept Dollars, some days Euros, Swiss Francs, etc. One of the downsides to foreign PayPal accounts is PayPal does not offer their own debit card connected to the account. I have been able to link a prepaid debit card from country A to country B.
- DOUBLE IDENTITY
I find deception to be an amazing tool when utilized for the right reasons. I know it sounds odd. Most people would assume that deception is typically a negative act with dark intentions. When clients contact me they all have the same question, how can they delete the negative or untrue online information making their life miserable? They cannot!
Most people who contact me do not fully accept that the hands of others control their online information. This means deleting information can be near impossible and the only real strategy is deception.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN How to Disappear from Big Brother
An excellent way to keep a predator off your tail is to create Virtual Targets. These are fake locations that make it appear you are in a city or have recently traveled through a city. Virtual Targets will create confusion and make it costly for the predator to pursue.
With Lady KGB, it was a piece of cake creating virtual targets for the predator to follow. Her predators most likely assumed that she would lay low for a while and then resort to prostitution to maintain an income. I exploited this thought process and posted photos and contact information of Lady KGB offering her salacious services in various cities.
My concern with Lady KGB’s predator was their deep pockets. There was no doubt in my mind that the pimps had access to some kick ass techie. In the Frank M. Ahearn world of disappearing never go toe to toe with a geek, the geek will win every time. Take the battle to the bricks and mortar and utilize deception.
I knew that each posting the predator located of Lady KGB a techie would try to search the origins of the posting. It was extremely important that Lady KGB had no connection with any of the internet postings. I utilize a third party service located in Laos. This way all of the posting came from a city not connected with Lady KGB. The predator had to decide if the leads were worth following. Either way it was a fine act of deception.
When you lay trails for a predator or BIG BROTHER to follow it is vital you do not do not accidentally leave a real trace in the mix. If you are using photos, phone numbers or email addresses ask yourself if there are leads in the content.
If you are in a situation, where you can utilize online ads or postings to further your cause take precautions. The advertisement photo that you use, confirm it does not have any real background identifiers? Perhaps taken in front of an identifiable street sign or a license plate to a car you rented. Maybe there is a billboard advertisement for a supermarket chain like Carrefour’s in Paris, Andorra 2000 in Andorra or Key Foods in New York.
You will need to use two different phone numbers in your bogus ad. One number is for opening the account and the second number is to post in the ad itself. In addition, if you are using prepaid cell phone numbers it is important they be from different carriers and with different area and city codes. Most important, if you do use prepaid cell phone numbers they should be numbers purchased by a third party from different locations. Last but certainly not the least the cell numbers you use should not have any identifiable or traceable numbers to you or your location.
For situations like this, I would use one burner phone, which is a prepaid cell phone used only one time. Then toss out the SIM and the phone. Do not be cheap always dump the phone too.
If you dial a phone number from a SIM card with a 212 area code and a model 051 Cell Phone there will be a connection between the SIM card and the 051 phone. The phone is traceable so burn it!
You will need two different email addresses for the advertisement. One email address is to open the account and the other email address is for the advertisement. Never open the email account yourself, always use a third party. If possible, use two different third parties in different countries.
Do not get seduced by curiosity and wonder if anyone made contact with the email or cell phone. Remember, curiosity kills! When you are creating what it is you need to create always think of it as a mystery. Imagine there are clues in your piece of work. You must play detective and find those clues that could lead to your discovery.
Frank M. Ahearn
CHAPTER TEN – How to Disappear from Big Brother
In the STOP chapter, I explained the importance of STOPPING and walking away from your computer. The GO chapter is about finding and using computers and internet services that have no connection to you.
When I use the word connection, I mean that you have no direct link to the computer or internet connection. This does NOT mean the connection is untraceable. When I say connections, I mean online/digital connections and offline connections.
The reason I use the word connection is that people tend to forget that connections can create traces just as digital can create digital footprints. If you begin to see them as a whole or the same, you will most likely create fewer footprints.
Take Mr. Munich who I located in Nice. He started out in Munich and created a connection to Belfast. The Belfast apartment created a connection to an internet café and the internet café created a connection to Nice and Monaco.
The mistake Mr. Munich created was not thinking about his online and offline connections as a whole. He probably thought he was being smart not having an internet connection in the Belfast apartment. However, all this did was force me to walk the streets of Belfast searching for a connection he may have used.
Mr. Munich should have stood on the street in front of the Belfast internet café and asked himself if a connection with the internet café exists.
Keep in mind things tend to appear private, like an internet café two blocks from your home but in reality, it is not private and to a degree guilty by association. Remember paying cash and not using your name is not anonymous!
a·non·y·mous – əˈnänəməs/ – adjective: anonymous – (of a person) not identified by name; of unknown name.
con·nec·tion – kəˈnekSHən/
noun: connection; plural noun: connections; noun: connexion; plural noun: connexions
a relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.
Again, if Mr. Munich stood in front of the internet café and thought carefully about what he was about to do it is possible that he may have realized that the location was not safe. He would have realized that there is a connection between the internet store and his apartment. There is not a digital connection but a walking connection, which is no different from a digital connection.
What Mr. Munich should have done is set up an internet connection in the Belfast apartment and spread the internet with some bogus traces. Instead of searching for hotels and exotic car rentals in Nice and Monaco at the Belfast internet café he should have searched in Belgrade. It is quite possible I would have been on a plane to Belgrade.
To connect to the internet Mr. Munich should have taken a train ride a few hours south to Dublin. From there find free internet service offered in many parts of the city and do his thing. It is more than likely that I would not have discovered his disappearance to Monaco.
It is important to understand that the goal is to break or seriously distance your identity from the connections you utilize. That does not guarantee the connections will not be discovered but it will make it more difficult for BIG BROTHER or any predator to locate.
Let me shuffle around and talk about the evil twins in society, BIG BUSINESS and BIG BROTHER. Both of them want to know everything about you and neither care about your personal privacy. The snoopy BROTHERS also want to use your information to further their cause. One wants money and the other wants control.
Whether you like it or not we are small pawns in the big game of information- gathering. In my opinion, we have entered a dark era where governments are spying more on their citizens than ever before. East Berlin will go down as the amateurs of citizen spying and the world champions will be The United States of Fearica.
It is up to you to decide what information you keep private and what information you give away. It is also up to you to figure out how to keep your information private. Privacy is only as private as you make it. If you email compromising photos of yourself, it is equal to handing the postal worker the photos with and open envelope. If you email questions to your offshore banker, your government will know about it.
If you write information in your email that, you do not want to share publicly. That is equivalent to shouting it through a megaphone on your street corner. Other people have access to your communications, as simple as that. Privacy discretion begins with you and your actions.
We are being monitored twenty-four seven in various ways. When you turn on your light on in the morning the utility company knows you have most likely woken up. The cable company knows what you watch on TV and when you change the station. The internet company knows when you log on and what you surf. Your building manager knows when you step in the elevator and exit the building. The police know when you walk down the street. The subway police know which train station you enter and which station you exit. The building manager for the building you work at knows when you arrive. Your employer knows your internet habits and possibly the contents of your emails. Daily life has become intrusive and there seems to be no stopping in the future. Always remember there is a third party witnessing and recording your actions.
Where to Surf?
The unfortunate reality of disappearing is there is no 100% private place to surf and plan your disappearance. You must locate a place that has no connection to you. This is the best odds of safe surfing. Always keep in mind that technology changes each second of the day. The location you believe secure today will become the compromised location tomorrow, if not sooner.
The GO location is where you will search and acquire your GO tools. From this point on, I want you to forget about the word digital and solely think connections.
The GO Tools – Large Mail Drop – Several Prepaid Debit Cards – Several Prepaid Cell Phones – Several Prepaid Calling Cards – Cheap Laptop or Tablet
Finding a mail drop in most countries is easy. I suggest not using a brand box store but a locally owned drop store. They are the stores that usually have boxes strewn all over the place and most likely will not take notice of you using the mail box as a stash.
The reason for using a mail drop is to stash your disappear gear and to keep it from other people’s hands. If you unknowingly allow others to have access to your phone or laptop, they could put a tracking device or keystroke software on your computer.
The spyware can blow your disappear plans out of the water. I would suggest using several mail drops so not to keep your gear in one location. This is smart in case you need to leave town quickly and one of your boxes are blown.
A note about prepaid credit/debit cards, there are two different types. One card you fill out an application, which has identifiers like, name, address, and social security number. The second card is more of a gift cards supplied by credit card companies. The gift cards you give cash to the cashier to load up the card with credit and the best part is there are no identifiers. However, keep in mind there is the store surveillance capturing the transaction.
Think Connections When Obtaining Tools
Never walk into a store yourself and purchase disappear tools! Remember CONNECTIONS! I would assume that 99.9% of retail locations have surveillance cameras. Do not think you are James Bond or Jason Bourne and try going into the store with a disguise unless you have no other choice.
What you do, is go to a city area that is bustling with people and pay a less fortunate individual a couple of bucks to go into the store and purchase your disappear gear. Do not tempt the minion and hand over a hundred-dollar bill for the purchase. They might disappear, on you.
Give only enough money to buy two phones at a clip and pay them their reward when the merchandise is in your hands. Do not stand in front of the store waiting for your merchandise because a camera could pick you up. Wait across the street out of eyeshot of surveillance cameras.
Be Smart About Your Choice in Minions!
Never, ever give money to a minor to purchase your disappear tools. An individual I spoke with paid a teenager to go into a store and buy a bunch of prepaid phones and several prepaid credit cards. Standing behind the teen at the register was a plain-clothes detective who found the purchase odd. The detective followed the teen outside and observed him handing over the merchandise to a much older man. Even though there was, no law broken the person found himself in quite the awkward position.
When it comes to a laptop or tablet, buy a cheap small one that will fit in your mail drop. You will NOT register the computer. You will NOT check your real email or any connected email addresses. You will NOT do anything where you have to sign in with identifying information. This laptop is to search for your desired destination.
Bring Tools to Home or Work – Have Automatic Wireless Connections – Use Identifiable Information – Never Create Connections
The predator hunting you down can make one hundred mistakes but you the prey cannot afford one mistake. Before you walk into a store, coffee shop or internet café to surf, stand outside and ask if you are creating a connection.
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.