social engineering

How to Disappear – Pretext or Deceive

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.





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.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Little Black Book Of Skip Tracing: Creating Pretext, Mastering Social Engineering And Finding Anyone Anywhere


The Allure of Skip Tracing

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?

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Little Black Book Of Skip Tracing: Creating Pretext, Mastering Social Engineering And Finding Anyone Anywhere

Confirming a Skip Trace

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.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Little Black Book Of Skip Tracing: Creating Pretext, Mastering Social Engineering And Finding Anyone Anywhere

Offshore Banking Privacy Protocols

There are dozens of companies providing what they call the ultimate privacy protection. Sounds pretty cool, no? They do this by setting you up in an offshore corporation and bank account, the ultimate protection. Unfortunately, there is a flaw in the process.

The issue is many offshore companies draw you into their website and offer their services. The problem is if you visited the website from a computer or IP address associated with your identity you created a massive footprint. A skip tracer hunting your assets could easily obtain your IP address and locate which countries you searched, for the purposes of hiding or protecting your money.

Maybe the offshore process needs to go a bit deeper into the privacy aspect. Perhaps there should be protocols of how one can open an offshore corporation or bank account and do so without leaving a digital footprint.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Little Black Book Of Skip Tracing: Creating Pretext, Mastering Social Engineering And Finding Anyone Anywhere

Information, Technology, The Internet & A Deep Pocket Predator

Part of me is always stretching to come up with a unique perspective of privacy and disappearing. You know, that buzz that catches fire. Yet, other days when unsure of what to write, I get comfortable and reach backwards to grab a story of interest, one of privacy invasion, examples of pretexting Verizon, Chase Bank or Scotland Yard. If this were some old gin joint, I would probably sound like the old drunkard on the corner stool. Perhaps and even worse, I am that old social engineer pining for some old school action.


Today’s dish of words derives from when I was working on my website and tuning it up with a new service that searches the vulnerabilities of offline information. The type of information that can be pulled from T-Mobile, Cablevision, Bank of America, ConEd and the rest of the big guys.

As I am tweaking away I am knocking my head around being honest, is this a valid service or some mumbo jumbo to twist a buck. However, some thoughts came to mind, the first being the future of the internet, technology and information. Naturally, I think about how that information can be used against us, by big business, big brother and a deep pocket predator.

The internet is loaded with our data and connections. This type of information is like a virus, it keeps growing and the goal is to eventually link all of our information. The offline world is super loaded with out information and connections. Our identity consists of three components, name, social security number and date of birth. In most circumstances these items must be used to provide, shelter, banking, employment and other much needed services. Keep in mind this is strictly offline information that is tucked away in the databases of big business. A name, social security number and date of birth are the triple crown of privacy invasion.

The second thought was about the deep pocket predator and this derives from the Gawker/Peter Thiel situation. Peter Thiel, financed Hulk Hogan’s case against Gawker and basically annihilated Gawker and Ex-Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio. A.J. is now in the hole for a hefty some of millions and millions of dollars. The reality is most of us will never come up against an aggressor like Thiel. Then again I am confident A.J. never thought such.

If you mix information, technology, internet and a deep pocket predator you have a Gawker/Thiel scenario. This is a very similar to stalking where an aggressor has an objective and uses whatever means are at their disposal. The difference, there were no acts of violence as in typical stalking situations. However, destruction occurred. I have been involved with a number of David and Goliath cases and unlike the story, in the real world Goliath usually wins. Forward thinking suggests that you question how, information, technology, the internet and Goliath can step on your world.

Frank M. Ahearn
Author of: The Art of Disappearing, According to Sun Tzu’s, Art of War: Book One: Laying Plans

No Information Located Does Not Mean Privacy

When I conduct a Digital Search Report which determines if a client has online information that can connect to their offline life. I either report back that, there is information and we must combat the information by using Digital Disinformation, or there is no information to be located. Clients automatically assume that no online information located is positive. Unfortunately, this is untrue.

If I am hired to locate information on a subject and there is no digital presence, I question the accuracy of the information provided. Is the subject’s name spelled correctly, is the supposed city of residence accurate, or if this the subjects real name? These questions prompt me to search in more detail. What I do is go backwards into the information the client provided and I rip that information to shreds, searching for that one piece to bring me forward. This aggression ultimately ends with me locating the subject’s home address.

What I suggest to my clients who wish to protect their home address and information is to create Digital Disinformation. Digital Disinformation is the great online smoke screen, where you appear here but you are really there. Remember no information located only means a skip tracer, private detective or predator will search harder. Harder on the real information that leads to you, not the fake information that leads them to Des Moines.

Frank M. Ahearn

Author of: The Little Black Book of Skip Tracing: Creating Pretext, Mastering Social Engineering And Finding Anyone Anywhere

The Little Black Book of Skip Tracing

Frank M. Ahearn spent much of his career as a skip tracer finding people for private investigators, lawyers and tabloids. However, his real forte was extracting private information for sale. He is a leading privacy expert and author of The New York Times Best Seller: How to Disappear.

Skip Tracing & Pretextretext

Available at Amazon!

Most of the pretext and social engineering tactics in this book are illegal. In non-technical language, that means do not be a dumbass and try this stuff at home, from work, on Skype, with a prepaid cell phone or through a psychic medium. If you are caught, utilizing these tactics some bad mojo will happen. That is my disclaimer.

Excerpt from The Little Black Book Of Skip Tracing:

I mentioned that another way to pretext a subject of a landline is to do so as a telephone repair employee.

“Hi, this is Joe Momma from Dingle Falls Telephone Repair. I am working on the phone lines and your phone service might be disconnected for about five minutes. Fear not it will be immediately repaired.”

Some people are cool about it and others are huge dicks rambling off they need their phone service. Yea, yeah, yeah! I wait a few minutes and dial them back and when they answer, I hold down the pound button as it cranks out that unpleasant sound in their ear. I do this a few times, depending how much of a schmuck the subject was during the pretext call.

After about five minutes, I call the subject back and explain all is fixed and there will be no interruption of service. Before I hang up, I hit them with the second part of the pretext.

“I need you to confirm your building number and zip code.” And “Please spell the name correctly.”
Note, I do not ask what the building number is but confirm the building number. By saying, confirm it automatically implies that I have the information. Most people fall for the pretext but there is always one unpleasant crayon in the box.

“You work for the phone company, you should know my address”

If someone were being a dick about confirming the information, I would ease out of the call and tell them no problem. From the multiple prepaid cell phones, I call the subject back using different voices and requesting various styles of pizza. The subject would soon realize that their phone number is crossed with the local pizza shop.

I call the pain in the ass subject back and act as if I am calling the pizza shop to confirm all is well with their services. The subject usually blew their stack and blasted me for screwing up their phone line. This was a good thing.

“Sorry but I am showing this line belonging to Pizza Haven. You will need to dial 611 and report the issue.”

This totally infuriated the subject.

“You are repair, you broke it now fix it.”

My response was polite.

“I would if I could but I can’t. I show the number 867.5309 belonging to Pizza Haven on Broadway.”

Then came the roar!

“No you moron my name is Kurt Duesterdick and my address is 1313 Webfoot Walk, Duckburg, Calisota.

“My apologies, I will repair immediately.”

Pretext is like a prompt system, you need to create the right buttons to push.