Do You Know How to Disappear?
Folks: Today we have a real treat. Bring the questions on! If you have ever wondered how to find the guy who gets away, or lose your characters around the world, this is the man who can tell you how. Frank M. Ahearn has been hunting people down for over twenty years. His philosophy has been-- if you can afford it, he can find them, or lose them. The notches on his skip tracing belt are slashed with over fifty-thousand names that read like a who’s who of celebrities, wealthy, notorious and the down-right dangerous.
Frank was hired to monitor OJ Simpson’s assets while he stood trial for murder. Roadway trucking brought in Frank to assist when the Oscars were stolen, law enforcement only knew him as the guy from New York. When Santee Kimes cast her murderous voodoo on socialite Irene Silverman, Frank was called into the search as a last minute hope. Hired by a tabloid to find the whereabouts of a woman, Frank jumped on board and located her hiding from the public. Three hours later Monica Lewinsky and her scandal was introduced to the world.
Frank now works with clients who need to disappear and is co-author of How to Disappear. He legends have appeared in over fifty newspaper and magazines worldwide plus he has spilled his guts on over one hundred radio stations from Fiji to Finland.
Would you join me in welcoming him to Mysteries and Margaritas?
Cassy- What is skip tracing?
Frank- Skip tracing is locating people for many reasons—be it debt, tracking a thief, conman or searching for a lost love.
There are different types of skip tracers, some are what we call database hounds who only use public data and try to track people (snore). Then there are skip tracers who used pretext, which is lying for a living to get what you need.
I was the skip tracer who had a great knack for pretext so I would hit up the phone companies, utility companies and banks to get information. Pretext is a matter of posing as a person in the company or the actual subject I was hunting. From those companies I would get phone records, account records, employment, contact and what ever else the company stored. From that information hunt you down.
Cassy- What led you into skip tracing?
Cassy- What led you into skip tracing?
Frank- I always say I was unemployable elsewhere but in my early twenties, I bounced from job to job and landed at an investigative company. I was doing well there but the guy in the back was doing skip tracing and I found it intriguing and asked my boss if I could do the skip tracing. He said no. I countered with a “What if I get a copy of your phone records?” he laughed and said if I did that he would fire the other guy and give me his job. Well come Friday, I was the new office skip tracer.
Cassy- And, helping people disappear?
Frank- The disappearing came years later when I was in a bookstore and saw a guy buy offshore banking books and books about Costa Rico and paid via credit card. I thought it was silly that he was buying books about discretion and paid via something that could be tracked.
In the café, I introduced myself, explained what I did for a living, and shared how a skip tracer like me could track him down via his credit card purchases. A few days later, he contacted me and asked if I could teach him how to disappear. I really thought about what one would have to do and then I came up with the three keys of disappearing which are Misinformation, Disinformation and Reformation.
Cassy- Who are your clients? I am actually asking, who needs to disappear and why?
Frank- They range from victims of stalkers to celebrities needing more insulation from the public. It used to be when men contacted me it was a money issue and woman a safety issue from a stalker or ex, however, that seems to have changed. The female clients are now high-end business people interested in travel safety and abduction protection.
Disappearing is different to people, some see it as running off while others see it as a new start. Clients either have lost everything and are looking to leave a world behind and others came into money and are still looking to leave a world behind.
Overall people disappear because of money or safety!
Cassy- If I were to need/want to disappear, what do I need to do? What preparations do I have to make?
Frank- MISINFORMATION is the art of taking every piece of data that exist about you, deviating it and destroying it beyond recognition. The purpose for that is when a PI starts searching for you they will have various types of information about you. Be it a credit report, an old address, bank records, etc.
Your home phone number lists every call you have ever made over a period of time, your cellular phone as well. Your frequent flyer account with an airline lists every trip you logged. Car rental companies keep track of whom you are by your phone number, which leaves a record of every car you rented. Video stores keep your records by phone number, a good skip tracer can do a little social engineering and pretext the store and find various information about you. Your local Internet provider lists every website you have surfed.
DISINFORMATION is making the PI’s file thicker. Disinformation has three parts: Hook, Line & Sinker. The hook is to bring a PI into an area of choosing and have them start searching for the subject. The line is having them find information about my subject. The sinker is having the PI believe he’s on the trail of my subject and keep trying to reel them in.
Disinformation is my favorite part when it comes to teaching someone how to disappear. To me it is the sneaky aspect of leaving the breadcrumbs for the PI to find or who ever is looking for my subject. Disinformation makes the file thick and eventually causes mass confusion.
REFORMATION is the action of taking my client from point A to point B. Our goal is to be confident that who ever is searching for my client does not find them. Before I work with a client a few things I need to know, one: are they staying in the country or not.
If I am working with a client who is looking to go offshore, I need to know how THEY plan to expatriate their money. I am not an attorney nor an accountant so I do not give advice in those matters. I am very cautious in this area since there is a lot of legality and I do not want to aid anybody in money laundering.
Cassy- Once you have relocated me, how do I live my life? What do I give up? How can I find a job, a house, a sense of self?
Frank- You live your life normally, as if you simply relocated for a new job. You need to give up certain habit or social aspects like bowling team, writing clubs and other groups that keep membership information. When skip tracing a person, those are some of the thing we look for, especially if it is a national organization that keep list of members.
Employment can be an issue if you are a licensed professional like a doctor, lawyer or limo driver. However if it is a matter of safety I am sure one would not mind so much finding a new profession.
As far as a home. if you buy one it could be an issue unless you can buy property outright and shield under a corporation, If you are renting you can rent using a corporation name or even sublet where no lease exist.
Cassy- What are the major mistakes people make when they try to disappear?
Frank- They forget about the information they leave behind. Such as contact number on a utility bill, forwarding address left at employment for the final paycheck. They forget about places they emailed since email can be accessed, they forget about calls they made several months back to their new city of location. The problem with “just” disappearing is the information you leave behind can catch up with you.
Cassy- What catches us unaware that might make it easy to be found?
Frank- I don’t think it is anything in particular, skip tracing is not science where you go from A to B. It’s more like a frenetic rollercoaster where ideas pop in your head and you search that direction.
I was hunting some dead beat and for the life of me could not locate him. I went back to my client who told me he was a car buff who enjoyed autos from the fifties. I started hitting up magazine subscriptions claiming to be him and did not get my last magazine. Eight magazines later, I got a hit and located him in Atlanta.
Cassy- Do you stay in touch with people you have helped? Do they need your continued support to keep up the deception in their new lives?
Frank- I never stay in touch, not interested in being a baby sitter. I think if they use the tools and stick to the rules, they will be ok.
Cassy- We all love a good story. What was the wildest craziest case you have taken? Of course, names are not necessary.
Frank- Gosh, there are so many, where to begin, hmm….
I was sitting in my office one day when a client called me and asked if it was possible to teach someone how to disappear. My answer was no doubt yes, so he asked me how. It’s as if he wanted me to give him a checklist of things to do. At that point, I told him he should just buy a book and give to his client.
A few days later, a call came again from the same client and he asked if I would meet with his client to discuss teaching her how to disappear. I agreed. We set a meeting for the following week. I figured we would meet, have coffee, chat away, or they would buy me dinner. Wrong!
My client told me the general area we would be meeting, so that evening I made my way toward the destination. I got a call my contact and his clients were at a nearby motel. In the room, my client greeted me and a woman with an accent. Her name was Jane. After we got the formalities out of the way, Jane told me her story.
Jane was independently wealthy and an active animal-rights activist. She told me she brought lawsuits against several animal farms resulting in jail time for the people involved in cruelty acts. I asked her to clarify exactly who, what and where she refused and left it at that.
Jane continued to tell me there were threats made on her life; dead chickens on her property and most recently a slaughtered calf. My client interjected a pipe bomb was found on Jane’s property as well. Jane took all of these threats seriously, as she should. I asked about her financial situation; how she planned to make a living. She explained she was living off a European trust and was divorced so money was no problem.
As I sat listening to this woman, the first thought in my head was, “she is rather calm about this.” It felt as if she were telling me things she thought about but not things she actually experienced. I probed more. I asked to see her wallet and she flat out said no. I asked to see only her driver’s license and she said no. Finally, I asked for her Social Security Number, she refused. Considering this woman wanted my help, she was not being too cooperative.
I expressed my concerns with the situation and wanted her to explain why she was being so defiant. Her explanation was she worked for the government, work of some kind that made absolutely no sense to me. She had a top-secret security clearance and the government issued her a new identity.
When things get elaborate, I get cautious.
Jane revealed more stories of growing up in castles, having servants, and so forth. In her conversation, she mentioned a town in the UK where I had been several times. I made an open-ended comment about the town that should have prompted some type of response. She ignored my statement making me think she was never there.
The nutshell of our conversation was, she was rich and wanted to move so the animal people couldn’t find and kill her. The meeting ended on a cordial note and both parties stated we’d be in touch. My client walked me to my car and before he spoke, I said, “She’s full of shit!” My client tried to convince me she was the real thing. He saw dollar signs but I saw trouble. The meeting made me very uncomfortable and I felt like I was being played.
I had enough experience with people to know she was not from the state we met in, so I drove around the motel parking lot looking for a car with out of state tags. There was no such car in the lot. It was an isolated area, so I drove to the diner down the road. There I found a car bearing Pennsylvania tags and copied down the number.
Next day in the office, I had someone run the license plate. We came up with the same last name but a first name of Mike. I gave Eileen the information I knew about Jane.
Eileen worked on the phone and found out Jane X was dead but was married to Mike X. Turns out Mike X is an attorney in the small town. Eileen figured out the woman I met was Joan X and was assuming her deceased sister’s identity.
Eileen then contacted the press secretary for the wealthy European family. She said she was writing a small piece on the family and had a simple question about the ages of the siblings. Jane/Joan did not meet the age range of any of the children and all of them worked for their company. Nor was there a Jane or Joan in the family.
I asked my client for Jane’s cell number, promising not call her. Eileen determined it was a prepaid cell phone. Imagine that a wealthy aristocrat using a prepaid cell; I don’t think so. The only calls on the bill were to my client. Eileen then pretexted Mike X, the alleged husband, and acquired his cell phone number, as well as all the phone numbers in the house.
My client’s only point of contact with Jane was the prepaid cell phone he provided me. When we called the house, one answering machine stated you reached Mike X. The other answering machine stated Joan X and it was the same voice as the woman I met, sans the British accent.
Eileen investigated further by contacting the local police. She found there were never any complaints of pipe bombs or animals tossed on anybodies property in the town. With all this evidence, I called my client and told him everything. To make a long story short, he still saw the dollar signs. I told him I wanted nothing to do with this woman.
You are probably wondering why this woman was doing this. Eileen and I were wondering the same. Eileen was able to pretext someone to get a little history on the woman. Turns out, she had a mental illness. Moral of the story is, know thy client!
Cassy- I’m not sure where to go from here after a story like that, but I’ll try. You often work with writers to help the stories be accurate and interesting. You are very generous with your time. I can speak to that. What drew you to the world of publishing?
Frank- I like writers because all fiction is a form of deception and I like deception. Also I feel that I can be honest about the things I have done in this crazy business and not have to worry that I am sharing it with some lunatic going to use my information for crime. In addition, I have met some great people, which is the best score!
Cassy-Tell us about your website and the kind of information you offer.
Frank- The site is www.disappear.info it has various information about disappearing, people who faked their death and some cool gadgets. Anyone have any questions just drop me an email and mention the blog and I will be more then happy to help.
Thank you all! Frank
Cassy- Frank, we thank YOU!