There are all kinds of reasons why a person might want to disappear. Whether you did anything wrong or not, you need to protect your family and yourself. Sometimes the best way to do that is to become invisible.
In this modern-day and age, it is difficult to disappear completely. Almost everything leaves some sort of a digital trail. In addition, the technology available to track a person is some blow your mind, sci-fi stuff. It may not always be the case, but you must assume that whoever is after you has the resources to gain access to this technology.
In this article, we will discuss how to disappear using different tactics. We will also discuss the challenges you will face on this journey, especially if you want to stay invisible long term.
You’ve just gotten word that you or your family are at risk. You have weighed the pros and cons of staying and fighting whatever is coming versus leaving and trying to hide. You know that once you leave, you may never be able to come back. Once that decision is made, you need to take action immediately.
In some cases, you may have a few days or at least a few hours to get your stuff together and hit the road. In other cases, danger may already be headed your way. Your first step is to sit down, take a deep breath, and come up with a plan. Initially, you should just worry about planning to get your family out of town without being tracked.
Once you have a plan in place, you need to get moving. Keep in mind that you still will need to find a place to stay after you get out of town. Express the importance of packing and leaving quickly to your family. Be sure each member of your family is involved with your plan, so nobody accidentally gives away your location.
Phones and Outside Contact
Destroy your phone
The number one easiest way for you to be tracked is with a cell phone. The very first step you should have in your plan is for everyone to remove the SIM cards from their phones and to destroy both the phone and the SIM card. Just to be careful, these devices should be dropped along the way even though they have been destroyed.
This is true for any device with Bluetooth or WIFI capability. That means your tablets, laptops, fitness watches, and any other connected devices also need to be destroyed and dropped. Not only does this prevent them from tracking the devices, but it prevents those pursuing you by accessing sensitive information on the devices. They could use this information to find you or to blackmail you.
Before you destroy your phones, you should write down a few key phone numbers. Think of people that you speak to rarely, but that would help you out in a pinch. It should not be immediate family, close friends, or current coworkers. Also, think geographically about who lives or works in your area or the area you are heading to.
Avoid contact with people you know
You should completely avoid contact with anyone you speak to on a regular basis. For contacts that are lower risk, you ideally should come up with an off-the-grid way to communicate. You could drop off a two-way radio with sufficient range, or this could be as simple as leaving notes in a designated location. You must assume you are being watched at all times, so be stealthy with this.
The other option is using burner phones to communicate. Burner phones are prepaid cell phones that you can buy just about anywhere. There is no account like a normal cell phone, so the number is not tied to you in any way. However, if you make the mistake of calling someone that is being monitored, then your pursuers would be able to track your burner. The worst part is that you would have no idea you were being tracked. I do suggest buying a burner phone, but it should only be used if absolutely needed.
Another trick that you can use is to ask to use a stranger’s cell phone to contact help. If you are nice about it, often complete strangers will let you use their cell phone in a pinch. While this does leave a witness, it is a witness that knows nothing about you. If the call was traced back to them, all they could do was verify the location of where you met.
Most modern vehicles have tracking devices built-in, so they can be tracked in seconds. However, even if you have an old vehicle without this function you can get in trouble. There are license plate scanners on most major roads in the US. Every time you drive by one, it scans your plates and reports the time and location. This makes it easy for you to be tracked.
Driving around without plates is not an option, but you could always “borrow” some plates from a neighbor. Until the plates were reported stolen, you would not be tracked. You should also be sure that the vehicle you are driving does not have an EZ Pass or PrePass sticker. These are able to be tracked as well.
As soon as you can, you need to ditch your personal vehicle for one that is not registered to your name. You should have a good amount of cash on you, so try to make a deal. You ideally want vehicles that were built before 1994. As long as it drives okay, you want the oldest car you can find. If you know anyone that works at a car dealership, often they have trade-ins that they will sell you or possibly even let you borrow. Just be sure there is no paperwork under your name.
Of course, you can always hotwire a car if needed. While I never recommend this option, there are times you have no choice. You never know when the owner could catch you in the act, and then you have even more problems. Stealing a car accomplishes nothing if the car is immediately reported stolen.
Other Ways to Travel
The first goal is to get out of town, and you don’t need to do this by car. These days you almost always have to show ID to get on a plane or train. Never get on a plane unless it is a private plane, and you are not required to show ID. Unless you can quickly get a fake ID, you should avoid trains. Buses are fine for off-the-grid travel, but bus travel is slow and requires lots of stops and layovers. That gives your pursuers plenty of time to catch up with you.
Boats are actually a great way to get out of town. Whether you are cruising along the beach or headed up-river you can make the trip without anyone tracking your movement. Aside from boats, you can travel on foot or you can hitchhike. Traveling on foot is often your safest bet if you can stay in the shadows. If you need to cover lots of distance quickly, hitchhiking can get it done. Just make sure you keep your guard up while traveling with a stranger.
As part of your plan, one of the first few steps should be to get as much cash together as you can. Assume you will no longer have access to any money left in your account, so find a way to close it out. I suggest that you take out as much as you can from the ATM as soon as you smash your phones. Then find time to make it to your bank quickly.
Keep in mind that they may be staking out your bank waiting for you to get your money. If possible, go to a location you never normally use. If needed, you can remotely wire the balance in your account to someone else and pick it up later. Just be aware that they will trace that transaction. You still need to get your money discreetly and as quickly as possible.
Outside of that single ATM transaction, you should not use your debit or credit cards at all. Any digital transaction can be traced, so you should switch completely to cash. Always consider bartering if you have someone that is willing. This can help you save some of your cash.
You really have three options for lodging once you get out of town. You can stay at a hotel if you find one that takes cash. Be aware that the people after you may be checking hotels on the main routes out of town. If you stay at hotels, try to change locations as often as possible and avoid security cameras. You can also consider vacation rentals as they are more likely to take cash and less likely to get unwanted visitors.
You can stay with friends, but you must be very careful about who you stay with. It needs to be someone that you almost never see or speak to. You also need to find a way to arrange this without it being tracked. That can be tough to accomplish.
Your last option is to stay outdoors. If you are in the country, you can always set up a tent and do some camping. This is one of the best ways to stay off the grid. If you are stuck in a big city, you can use a homeless shelter. However, this exposes you a bit more than I would suggest. You would be better off to find one of the many homeless communities in all major cities. These are small communities of homeless people that often have a set of rules to keep things civil. You won’t be tracked there but be sure you watch your back.
If you can, bring supplies from home to keep you going. You should have the gear you will need to acquire food, water, fire, and shelter as you go. If you don’t have the supplies you need at home, get out of town and find a place to stock up. You will definitely want food that you can eat on the go. A first aid kit is always a good idea. Just gather up as much as you can without spending all of your cash.
Starting over and disappearing is never fun. If you genuinely feel that your safety is in danger, then you have a choice to make. If you do decide to run, you will be looking over your shoulder the whole time. This could be weeks, or it could be years. When you head out to become invisible, just be sure you think about all of these points of focus. If you are diligent, you may very well succeed in disappearing.