General Question

plethora's avatar

What do you have to do to totally drop out of sight? To just disappear from the radar of human society?

Asked by plethora (9579points) March 16th, 2010

If you wanted to eliminate all signs of your existence, make yourself untraceable and unreachable, how would you start? Where would you go?

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56 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Throw away the phone, bag up some supplies and head to the Caribbean. Plastic surgery helps too.

Fenris's avatar

set up a shack out in the middle of the woods in a hill where nobody will find you, set up a sterling engine array, buy a couple of years of those emergency preparedness meal bundles while you learn how to grow plants and track animals if you eat meat. Faking your death helps keep the trail cold.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

Move to some god awful country like Niger and live among the natives for the rest of your reduced life expectancy.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Step 1: Cancel Fluther Account

Jeruba's avatar

I read a factual book about spies some years back: Catching Spies, by Cooper and Redinger. It was fascinating because of all the ways in which it dealt with the subject of identity from a very practical, hard-facts point of view. I ended up shelving it right next to my books on Buddhism.

One of the topics it dealt with was this matter of disappearing. Unfortunately I don’t remember any of the details, but I do remember that there was a lot of information about tracking someone who has attempted to disappear, and also, if I remember correctly, information about how tracking might be avoided.

What this tells me is that the information exists and that it can be done. Even though that book was published 20 years ago, before we had Internet access, cellphones, GPS, etc., etc., I am sure that for every technology there is some kind of countertechnology, and, even better absence of technology. If I were wanting to disappear, I would certainly go low tech as step 1.

jonami's avatar

i WANT to do this! i am hoping to, actually. i guess you have to just get rid of everything and take a rowboat out to sea…..who knows.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@jonami @RealEyesRealizeRealLies: I don’t think death is the same as dropping out of site. Dropping out of site implies you are still alive.

Fenris's avatar

If a guy squats in the woods and nobody is around to see him, does he really exist? ^_^

SABOTEUR's avatar

Go to Congress and try to do what the people elected you to do.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: I believe my suggestion is the only realistic suggestion here. It is entirely doable. NO ONE will come looking for you in rural Niger and there is no record keeping or reporting.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Why go to all that trouble of moving to another country when you could just walk away from your life and become a wandering homeless person… who has died to their old life?

Fenris's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish : What’s unrealistic about my proposal? It can be done anywhere, not just a fourth-world country.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Fenris: Even in the “middle of the woods” in the USA you are likely trespassing. Someone will ask you to leave and may even prosecute you, etc.

Fenris's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish : Read: anywhere. Not necessarily in the USA. Not necessarily on government or private land.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Fenris: Your “anywhere” can’t be just anywhere. This is why I suggest the 4th world. It needs to be the kind of place where when an authority figure finally stumbles upon you it won’t be entered into an electronic system. In fact, ¾ adults in Niger can’t even read and write so it probably won’t be recorded anywhere.

escapedone7's avatar

I wonder how long I would last in Niger.

Fenris's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish : [...electronically entered…] True.

Niger’s too hot for my blood though ^_^

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@escapedone7 If you’re a Snickers Bar, not very long at all. Are you a Snickers Bar?

escapedone7's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies No. I might be a nut though.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@Fenris: Sometimes in certain parts of Niger when it rains the drops evaporate before they hit the ground.

brownlemur's avatar

@malevolentbutticklish – Have you been to Niger? I think the “natives” of which you speak would take issue with your less than diplomatic view of their country.

jonami's avatar

I hate this…..there’s a guy who gets cans from the trash and is recycling as a means to produce little or no trash and the cops wanted to arrest him. It’s ridiculous. I just saw on National Public Radio that the police actually CONFISCATED the possessions of some homeless people. Now in some towns they are providing waterproof bags with identity tags for people without homes, so that if they have to go somewhere their possessions are somewhat safe. Not that they care so much for possessions, but it’s just the fact of the matter. It’s just wrong that the police would do that.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@escapedone7 Welcome to the human race.

plethora's avatar

I forgot to add, I wanna live pretty high on the hog if I disappeared.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No lie. Downtown St. Louis MO is built upon stilts. The city you see sits on top of the old city from the turn of the century. I’ve been down there. It goes on for miles and connects to the cave systems from the Lemp Brewery, which ran slaves to freedom during the civil war.

There is an entire uber human homeless troglodyte community living down there. They live in the shadows that rats fear.

I’ve seen them, down there, and foraging for topside dumpster lettuce in the wee hours of the night. It’s like a real life “People under the Stairs”. I shit you not.

These folks are definitely off the grid.

escapedone7's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I hope they send a census worker down there, just because it would be funny. I can imagine some dude holding a clip board and freaking out.

stardust's avatar

I’d like to do this. Now you see here *** Now you don’t.

chamelopotamus's avatar

I think that existence would be lonely and hellish. Unless of course, you could learn to earn the trust, of the power of Mother Nature, to be your ally and confide in you it’s love, like a Native would.

escapedone7's avatar

Join some cult, Shave your head and live in some communal compound. Change your name to Boing Boing the Tambourine Man. Sell flowers at the airport.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Head for West Virginia or Eastern Kentucky, where cell phone reception is poor, the average household income is below poverty level, property has no address, and there is a long seated mistrust of government. Once you ditch your phone and the internet, it becomes easy.

YARNLADY's avatar

First you have to completely sever any current ties you have, including never contact any person you now know, including relatives. Then you can try to find work in an area where no one is likely to know you, using a different name. You can’t use your former social security number, or expect to take advantage of any benefits you may have already accrued.

There are plenty of sites on the internet that will claim they can help you, but most of them are scams. It is very easy to get a new name, but to get a new social security number, driver’s license, and other documents would be difficult without a birth certificate. You can no longer use the school or job references you have used in the past to prove your experience in your field, so it would be difficult to get a professional job.

You will find it nearly impossible to maintain your current standard of living, unless you have saved up enough money to get along without a job.

JeffVader's avatar

I’d move to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk…..

PhillyCheese's avatar

Legally change your name. Then move to where no one would expect you to move (but if I were to disappear, I’d travel the world first).
You don’t need plastic surgery, but change up your style and look.
Since you’re changing everything, you might as well change up your personality as well, do things you’ve always dreamed of doing and take more risks.

Jeremycw1's avatar

Go to the witness protection program.

Or, move to the mountains, build a tree house to live in, grow a beard and become a mountain man :) you will be one with nature

ucme's avatar

Ask Chevy Chase, he should tell you all you need to know.

CMaz's avatar

No credit cards, no bank account. Trust someone with your money, so if you need some cash they can send it to you.
No mailing address, or use one (for ID) but don’t ever go there and avoid contacting anyone.
Have nothing with your name on it.

Avoid being finger printed. If you have been, avoid the authorities.
Abra Kadabra, you are gone.

Jeruba's avatar

@ChazMaz, one of the things I do remember from the book was about setting up circular forwarding addresses: have 4 or 5 “general delivery” postal addresses, and then put a forwarding order in at each one to go to the next, and the last one points back to the first. Unfortunately I don’t recall exactly what good this was supposed to do you other than to throw people off your trail.

CMaz's avatar

Yes, I believe it is to throw off the law for some time to get out of town.

In general. Lets just say you won the lottery. Wanted to be alone.

Let a trusted family member take control of your estate, western union you money. Pay for everything you might need. And, pay with cash when you need to.

thriftymaid's avatar

camp in the rain forest

Jeruba's avatar

Unless you’re completely self-sufficient—don’t need any kind of goods and services from anywhere, no fuel, no seeds, no meds, no batteries, no hardware and building supplies, never mind food—you have got to do business with someone.

Anyplace you do business (buy groceries, receive money by wire, get your vehicle fixed, stock up on ammunition), you are going to be noticed: “Seemed kind of strange… never said much… always alone…” and, as if it had a whiff of indecency about it, ”... always paid with cash.” People will remember you. You won’t be hard to trace if somebody wants to find you. Low profile gets noticed just for being so low.

Maybe the trick really is not to have anybody wanting to find you. In that case it’s pretty much a shrug and you can go where you want.

CMaz's avatar

I am still suprised with the internet so interwoven in our lives.

That I have a hard time finding people that are not hiding. Just because they are not on the web. Keeping a low profile and a simple life.

plethora's avatar

Well…this is all helpful. Since I am most comfortable within a half mile of Walgreens, it probably won’t do for me to disappear….:)

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@jonami: Why is it wrong for the government to apply the same laws to the homeless that they apply to people with homes. Wouldn’t it instead be wrong if people with homes were discriminated against?

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

@brownlemur: The people of Niger don’t have much to be proud of. In fact, I have gone easy on them.

Response moderated
plethora's avatar

@Scooby Actually I don’t have that mastered yet. Want me to let you know when I do. Perhaps some instructions on how to do it?....:)

Scooby's avatar


“Actually I don’t have that mastered yet”

Well you could have fooled me! Lol.. No need to keep me posted on your progress you’re doing fine on your own! :-)

Pandora's avatar

There are a lot of small islands around the world that have little to do with the outside world. If one has the cash, you move there, buy a new idenity and if its an island with a cheap economy you won’t need much cash to disappear or live extravagantly.

gorillapaws's avatar

Here’s a great article in Wired about one of the staff writers who tried to vanish with his readers trying to hunt him down. It’s a fun read.

anartist's avatar

Step off a plane somewhere short of your destination. use cash to take a bus to somehwere else. throw away all your identification. Become a street person. Call yourself something else.

nobody said becoming someone else was easy .

Jeruba's avatar

Fascinating, @gorillapaws. GA.

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