The question is, of course: How does one perform a vanishing act these days? In an age of smart phones and GPS — not to mention anonymity-piercing paparazzi and celebrity magazines — is it really still possible to disappear? Absolutely, said Frank M. Ahearn, the author of the concisely titled primer “How to Disappear.” “Technology is a double-edged sword,” said Mr. Ahearn, a “skip tracing” expert who used to track missing people through credit-card and phone records and the like. “It can be used to find or to conceal. The real question is: Who’s better at technology? You or the people trying to hunt you?”
While admitting that technology can often make it easier to track a person down, Bob Burton, the president of U.S. Cobra, one of the country’s largest bounty-hunting companies, said that all you need to disappear is “a good computer and a 14-year-old kid.”
And perhaps a dead person, too.
“You look in the obituaries,” Mr. Burton said, “in Topeka, Kan., say. You want a gas station attendant more or less your age. Once you get the date of birth, you call the county. ‘Hi, I used to live in Kansas, but I’ve been living in American Samoa for the last 20 years as a Christian missionary. Any chance I could get a copy of my birth certificate?’ ”
Should your ruse succeed and the certificate arrive, simply call a motor vehicle office and apply for a driver’s license. “All you need,” Mr. Burton said, “is one good piece of ID. The rest follows after that.”
Is a signature required? “Show up with your writing hand in a sling,” he said. “That way, when you sign with your left hand, your signature’s messed up.”
Are officials troubling you for fingerprints? “There’s a nongreasy glue, like a mucilage,” he said, that is more or less invisible once applied. “You put it on your thumb. You roll your thumb over your heel. Now, you’ve got a heel print on your thumb for no one who exists.”
I sent away for the book, it arrived, and within a day it disappeared.