An interview with the US expert Frank M. Ahearn, author of The Digital Hit Man & How to Disappear
By Franco Russo
Q. “Why would anyone want to disappear?
A. People disappear for many reasons; some are victims of stalkers or trying to escape an abusive relationship. There are those who have been in bad business situations and feel their life is in danger. Also I have worked with people who have come into a lot of money and they want to leave everything behind and never be found.
It typically involves a money or danger aspect.
Q. What is the best system for disappearing without leaving a trace?
A. I do not think there is one best system, what may work for you may not work for me. I do believe if you are going to disappear do it legally and not try to obtain new or fake identities because you are only inviting one more predator – law enforcement.
Q. And what about the supplantation of identity?
I am against all fake identities and explain this creates more problems. You do not know if the identity you are obtaining is for a criminal or if ten other people are around with the same name and identifiers.
Q. What are some of the most common errors made by people who want to disappear and do it without consulting an expert?
A. The first mistake is they begin their search at home or work and have created a digital footprint. Most are unrealistic about their financial future and do not consider how they will make money in the future. Just because you have a boat load of money today does not mean you will have it tomorrow.
Q. What services can an expert offer?
A. I bring them down to reality and make then understand that the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have worked with numerous people who felt they had no choice but to disappear however, the reality is disappearing is not always the answer.
When it comes to a client who does need to disappear my expertise is making sure that the person hunting my client never finds them. Having a skip-tracing (finding people) background makes me good at disappearing.
Q. But, is this legal?
A. Yes. I do not work with criminals or supply people fake identities. Think of me a secure and confidential relocation service. Doing it legally means but not doing it illegally. Taking a fake identity. The idea is to plan your exit and not break local or national laws in your old or new country.
Q. When you help someone disappear, perhaps even with border-line methods, how do you know that it’s not a trap put out by the authorities, and how do you avoid ending up in trouble with the law?
A. I will not take work that is illegal. I search out my clients thoroughly. For example I just got back from Lithuania meeting a couple and their two children who want to disappear because they feel they are a target of child protective services. They seemed normal and their documents are in order but after the meeting a few things came out. They lied to me and if a client lies I walk away.
Q. How can you be sure you’re not helping an outlaw or, even worse, a terrorist?
A. I look into their background and search out information on the potential client. I come to learn that people who need my help ask me for help. People how have hidden agenda’s ask me how to accomplish certain task.
Again, the previous question if you want to hire me, you need to fly me to where you are located and have documents in order.
Q. Would you mind telling us a couple of stories about people who have decided to disappear?
A. I recently finished up with a client who turned twenty-one and received a large inheritance from her father’s estate. The problem was the father left minimal money to his widow and she was not very happy. The daughter discovered that the mother was trying to gain control of the money with the assistance of a corrupt lawyer. The daughter truly believed that the mother would hurt her for the money and felt it was best to disappear.
The problem was the estate had numerous properties and to sell them it would have taken a great deal of time plus make the mother aware of the intended actions. The estate provided a serious amount of cash and investments that would support the daughter for the rest of her life. She decided that she was going to donate the properties to charity and disappear. Everything happened in one day, the properties sold and my clients disappeared.
Q. Once you have disappeared, is there a way to return?
A. In the past I suggested you disappear and leave it all behind but life changes and now I suggest when you disappear do not burn the bridges you leave behind.
Something I want to add about disappearing. In the digital world one must learn to be a virtual entity to truly disappear. Just because you ran off to Katmandu does not mean you cannot be discovered. Digital traces discover people every second of the day, therefore when you disappear you need to evolve into a virtual entity that has not have any physical connections.
Q. What are your projects for the future?
A. I have been doing a lot of digital manipulation work. What that means is combating online information that is either negative, dangerous or malicious.
Q. To perhaps disappear forever?