Have you ever thought of wiping your existence from the earth and starting afresh somewhere new? It’s a thought we’ve all entertained at some point in our lives. However, as a survivalist, you must be equipped for any imaginable situation.
Circumstances that may require you to lay low are likely to cross your path, and in cases where you can’t rely on the relevant authorities to protect you, you have to rely on yourself. But how exactly do you go about disappearing from the face of the earth, and what factors should you consider?
This article guides you on how to disappear without a trace in ways that don’t get you in trouble with the law.
Is It Legal to Disappear?
According to Statista, 543,018 missing person cases were filed in the United States in 2020. This was a lower number compared to the 609,275 cases reported the previous year. A majority of these cases involved adults who walked away from their lives for one reason or another.
While some people reappear over time, some end up meeting their gruesome death, and some choose to wipe their slate clean and start a new life anonymously somewhere new. But is it legal to up and leave your life? Does the law allow a person to disappear without a trace?
While there is no right to disappear mentioned in the constitution, there is also no law in the United States that expressly forbids one from walking away from their lives, as long as their disappearance isn’t a result of being associated with a criminal act.
Why Would Someone Want to Disappear Completely?
Different people have different reasons for choosing to disappear. The government only allows you to legally disappear and assume a new identity if you find yourself in the following situations:
1. Entering the Witness Protection Program
The witness protection program is designed to help primary witnesses disappear legally to keep them safe from people after them. The government will relocate you from your home and give you a new identity in such a case. For you to qualify for the witness protection program, the government will look at:
- The credibility of your witness statement
- The level of danger you are facing as a witness
Under the witness protection program, the government will get you a job and schooling for your children if you have any. The police will also be assigned to protect your home.
2. Seeking Political Asylum
Political asylum applies to those who need refuge in the United States and don’t want to be found by people who may harm them. Political asylum allows one to seek protection when they fear persecution due to their religious, social, and political ambitions or convictions.
After successfully applying for asylum, the United States government will issue you a green card. A green card saves you the trouble of renewing your visa or applying for a work permit. It also allows you to go back to your home country when things cool down.
3. Fleeing from a Physically Abusive Relationship
While the government doesn’t offer this program, you won’t face any charges if you disappear with the intention of fleeing from an abusive spouse or domestic partner.
However, your case has to be credible. The credibility of your case will be measured by whether you previously filed reports of domestic violence against the abuser and if there are medical reports of injuries sustained as a result of physical abuse such cases turn out in favor of the abused party.
4. A Need to Survive
This is another situation where the government may help you disappear. In most cases, the circumstances that may require you to disappear are similar to those of the witness protection program. The following are survival cases that may require you to disappear completely:
- You’re trying to part ways with a criminal gang
- You’re facing hostility, consistent physical abuse, and getting death threats due to your sexual orientation, religion, or race
- You have a stalker who makes it impossible for you to carry on with your life
You won’t get in trouble with the law if you’re disappearing because of the above circumstances. In fact, the police might help you better understand the steps you need to take in the process.
5. Victims of Sexual Abuse
The media attention surrounding high-profile cases of sexual abuse can significantly and negatively impact the lives of the victims. In addition to the trauma they have suffered, as well as the stigma associated with sexual abuse, victims may be ashamed because they feel judged, causing them to struggle with self-esteem issues.
As a result, they may feel the need to relocate from their homes if the details of the abuse are well-known in the community. Relocating enables the victims to start over in a healthier environment where they don’t have to worry about judgment, stigma, or abusers.
Some people feel that the government is intrusive and violates their right to privacy. Therefore, they choose to live a life off the grid. Since the law doesn’t prohibit it, this allows them to live as they choose.
How Can Someone Disappear Completely?
According to an article published in The Wall Street Journal, about one surveillance camera is installed for every 4.6 people in the United States. Numerous companies are also continually collecting personal data from consumers daily. This may be a challenge for someone in the United States who wants to disappear completely. In a world where your every move, contact, and transaction are closely monitored, how do you vanish?
To pull off the perfect disappearance, you have to be prepared. In this section, we look at some things you should do to disappear without a trace.
1. Create a New Legal Identity
It’s not difficult to change your name. All you need to do is present a relevant form to a court of law. The court will then perform some background checks to ensure that you aren’t a criminal. Since it could take a few weeks for your new identity to become official, this task should be at the top of your list.
When you arrive at your new home, using a nickname you’ve never used before is advisable. The new nickname will help create an extra layer of security. Please don’t share your new identity with persons who aren’t essential since they could easily tell it to the wrong parties. The people after you can also clone your new identity to trick your family and friends into giving them information that could help them track you down.
2. Erase Your Digital Footprint
A digital footprint is a footprint of data a person creates while browsing the internet. It includes all traces of your online activity, including the emails you share, the websites you visit, your social media feed, and the data you submit while signing up for services on any online platform. Everyone who uses the internet leaves a digital footprint.
If you’re thinking of disappearing, the first step in your quest should be to delete your digital footprint since you wouldn’t want anyone to expose you online. Here’s how you can erase your digital footprint.
Leave Social Media
Depending on the type of content you share, social media platforms can collect a lot of information from you, including your date of birth, current location, home address, and information about your family members. If you continue using social media, people could easily use the content you share to trace you.
To erase your digital footprint on social media, you will need to deactivate all your accounts. To deactivate your social media account, go to the platform’s account settings and look for options to close, deactivate, or remove the account. You’ll often find the deactivate account option under the privacy and security icon. By deactivating your social media account, you’ll be deleting all your photos, posts, and tagged locations.
Delete Your Email Accounts
Emails can leave a significant trail of information. Hackers can use platforms such as Gmail that are linked to Google to get access to your recent search history and subsequently use your search history to track you. A person getting access to your email can figure out your physical location, making you vulnerable to unwelcome visitors. To be completely safe, delete all your email accounts. However, before you do, download all your important contacts and files that you may need in the future.
3. Get a New Phone
You will also need to get a new phone, preferably a feature phone. A feature phone will meet all your communication needs. A smartphone puts you at risk of being hacked. Hackers can easily retrieve and access old deleted files from your phone or tap into your cloud storage. For all your important contacts, you can copy them in a physical contact album or a book. It’s also advisable to make phone calls from random locations to avoid getting tracked using cellphone towers.
4. Leave Your Finances in Order
Banks and other financial institutions hire private investigators and law enforcement to track down credit defaulters. These institutions collect a lot of personal information from customers to help track them in the future. This is why leaving your finances unsettled could easily jeopardize your efforts to disappear completely.
Before getting on the road, ensure that you pay off all your credit card bills and loans. You might also need to sell your house to avoid incurring monthly bills once you’re gone. Additionally, if you have any pending orders, you must create some time to have them delivered to your clients or make arrangements to refund them. Doing this will help you avoid lawsuits once you are gone.
5. Travel Discreetly
With so many surveillance cameras in place, someone can easily track you and follow you to your hideout. To minimize the risk of being followed, you can:
- Avoid all major roads and use dirt paths or isolated roads
- Sell your car, preferably in a lot or in another state, to avoid suspicion. When selling your car, ensure that the buyer pays in cash to avoid trackable transactions.
- When buying a new car, pick one that doesn’t fit your usual preference. This will make it a bit challenging to spot you in traffic.
- Change your style of clothing to avoid making yourself conspicuous in a crowd. If you usually dress in formal attire, switch it up to casual wear and vice versa.
6. Don’t Involve Your Loved Ones
When trying to disappear, it’s advised never to involve other people unless they are also in danger. You should also keep your loved ones in the dark as you plan. Involving your loved ones could put them in harm’s way. Criminal gangs are known to use family members as leverage when trying to track people down. Once you are gone, maintain minimum to no communication with your loved ones to prevent hackers from tapping into your conversations and tracking either of you down. Additionally, it would help if you got rid of any videos or photos that connect you to your family.
You should also leave your pet behind. Traveling with a pet may hinder your plans to travel discreetly. You may also not be in a position to feed or care for them when you’re also looking over your shoulder.
7. Only Use Cash
Credit and debit card transactions are easily traceable and reveal your exact location at a specific time. Not using these methods of payment will help you minimize your financial footprint. It’s also advisable to carry the exact amount of money you need to purchase something to reduce your time in a store. Many retailers have CCTV systems and the longer you are in a store, the greater your chances of getting recorded on security cameras. It should go without saying, but only buy things you need – the fewer trips you make to stores, the better.
8. Detach Yourself Gradually
Suddenly disappearing will raise suspicion. To make your transition smooth, it’s crucial that you detach from your social life gradually. You can start your detachment process by spending less time with friends, changing your diet, music, and hangout areas. A gradual detachment will also help you get used to the idea of being alone and help you transition both physically and mentally into a loner lifestyle.
- How do I erase the data that companies have been collecting from me? You have the option of opting out of data collection websites. You can also ask data brokers, such as Google, to erase your data from their database and remove you from Google listings.
- Who inherits the property I leave behind when I disappear? When you disappear, law enforcers will hand over all your items and property to your family. If you’re presumed dead, your property will be divided as per your will.
- Can I fake my death? Yes. You have the right to fake your death as long as you don’t try to pass yourself as someone else.
While the thought of disappearing may be exciting, the execution can be a bit challenging with the amount of technology now present in everyday life. For you to vanish completely and successfully, you need to be fully equipped and prepared. With the right plans in motion, you are right on your way to being non-existent. To learn more about how to disappear without a trace, enroll in a survival school.