How To Disappear From The Transaction Grid

The complete essay, “Vanishing Point: How to disappear in America without a trace,” contains some of the most amusing paranoid delusional crap we’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, some of it criminal in nature, but it speaks to the lengths one might have to go to “live off the grid” as it were, in modern America.

There is the possibility that in the future people may be identifiable by their purchasing habits. Granted the point-of-sale data collected by computers would need to be immense yet eventually pattern-recognition software may some day be able to provide authorities with perhaps 100 of the best possible “hits” on people matching your known buying habits. When — if ever — that becomes a reality, you can be sure you won’t know about it until it’s shown on cable television. By that time the technology will have been in use for years and you may end up on a list of possible matching a purchase profile.

It used to be that living as part of civilization was sort of a nebulous social contract. Now, for better or for worse, it’s enforced by a hard-wired system of identification tools and rituals.

How to Disappear in America Without a Trace [skeptictank via Your Daily Awesome]
(Photo: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Parting says:

    Cash anyone?

  2. Caroofikus says:

    Anyone who’s used [] will notice that there’s already software in place that tracks purchasing habits – all they need now is a government subpoena…

  3. LTS! says:

    Okay, this is here because worrying about where you leave hairs is important?

    Christ, if you don’t want to be found in the United States, then leave the United States. Leave the modern world entirely if you want.

  4. darkclawsofchaos says:

    there is a perfect way to hide, just toss away this mortal coil and no government can catch, unless you believe in an afterlife, then you got a problem, in that case, go to the middle east and travel to Africa via local transportation and live in a forest with the locals

  5. EtherealStrife says:

    @chouchou: Exactly. Pay in cash, get paid in cash. Prostitutes, drug dealers, etc etc lots of people pull it off.

    POS tracking has been in place for a long time. For example, if you cc number shows up for X returns in Y days you’re blacklisted. That’s by a private group. The government has all sorts of extra information tied to your SSN. Google has even more.

  6. saltmine says:

    Uh, if you read like, 2 paragraphs of this “essay,” it’s obviously an escape guide for people who have just commited a serious crime. Comparisons to OJ, multiple references for how to handle cops, not leaving any DNA behind…the only lengths one has to go to to get “off the grid” in modern America is to use only cash. All ya gotta do. Wanna buy a house? Then you’re on the grid anyway, and you would have been in olde-tymie America too.

  7. Alvis says:

    Speaking of tracking, when did everyone start using their return address on mail they send out? I grew up in the early 80s, and I remember hardly any mail at that time having that information.

  8. Pfluffy says:

    The author conveniently gave the latitude and longitude in the Mojave Desert where a person on the run can hide after taking super extreme drastic measures to disappear.

    It was the most amusing article (and complete waste of eyesight) I’ve been exposed to all month.

  9. InThrees says:


    The ‘cash anyone?’ remark is sort of missing the point. Have you seen the movie Conspiracy Theory, in which Mel Gibson’s character is located via a purchase of Catcher in the Rye?

    They’re not saying any single purchase will do this, but potentially, some time in the future, if they notice that chicken fingers, macaroni and cheese, salad fixings, and the occasional key lime pie are regularly bought from a grocery store (and this will be tracked, allegedly) then they have good reason to suspect that I am shopping there on a regular basis.

    It’s combinations of certain purchases that are unique or nearly unique to a very small number of people, this is what will allow them to identify people.

  10. BritBoy says:

    @Alvis: Yeah !! And why is it that the post office clerks get all freaked out when you try to mail a small parcel without a return address ?? Many times I’ve been told, ‘oh but we must have a return address’. Why ? I see no good reason.

    They couldnt give me a good reason.

  11. Snockered says:

    “Consider shaving your arms if you’re a man — seriously. Women usually do in the United States and it’s perfectly acceptable for men to do likewise.”

    Oh crap! I’ve been walking around all this time with my arm hair intact. How embarrassing.

  12. FLConsumer says:

    The article lacks any mention of tinfoil hats, which would be highly important if you’re trying to avoid any sort of detection/interference by government/big business.

  13. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @InThrees: Well, in that movie, his character had an implanted urge to get copies of the catcher in the Rye. So when they were looking for him, they knew he would purchase THAT book during times of stress, and investigated any purchases of it in the city.

  14. alice_bunnie says:

    Speaking of tracking, when did everyone start using their return address on mail they send out?

    Since forever. It’s not a “tracking” thing. The post office has to return your mail if it’s undeliverable, hence the return address. Just because you never noticed it doesn’t mean it never happened.

  15. @Suzi: “Women usually do in the United States “

    Yeah, what women does he know????

    (I dated a swimmer once who shaved his arms for meets. Creepiest. Thing. Ever.)

  16. kimsama says:

    @Suzi: Yeah…me too. Really, does anyone shave their arms? I know a couple girls who did it in high school and it was very itchy and embarrassing for them to grow it back in. I would think that unless you’re willing to make a time commitment to shaving your arms every morning when you’re on the run, it’s not a hot idea.

  17. Trackback says:

    Let’s face it, gadget-fans. Our particular hobby can renders us particularly unprivate people. These days, you can’t so much as turn on a telephone without telling a half-dozen corporations everything from your birthday to your blood type.

  18. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    The first thing this made me think of was the “How not to be seen” sketch from Monty Python

  19. @BritBoy: Remember shortly after 9/11 when people started getting envelopes full of anthrax?

    Yeah, that’s one reason why they want return addresses. Obviously, you could put your neighbor’s address if you’re mailing out poison but they won’t deliever anything if the sender leaves the corner completely blank.

  20. axiomatic says:

    Let me pose a situation for you.

    You go to a cash machine to withdraw money. You withdraw money and little did you know that the money in the machine was cataloged for their serial numbers bu the FBI. So now “the man” knows the numbers on your money. When that money gets used by you later, on the run from “the man” you use that money for gas in some US border town before you make your great escape. At the end of the day that gas station manager takes all his money to the bank and deposits it for the night. Whoop whoop! RED FLAG! You moneys serial numbers just popped up in Laredo, TX. The FBI is en route to Texas. Better hurry.

    Money is not safe either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a paranoid guy or a conspiracy theorist. This stuff is just obvious if you just think about it.

  21. CurbRunner says:

    CAROOFIKUS AT 09/25/07 10:40 PM said:

    “Anyone who’s used [] will notice that there’s already software in place that tracks purchasing habits – all they need now is a government subpoena…”

    Many companies are willing to turn over that information WITHOUT A SUBPOENA.
    AT&T is an example by regarding actually volunteering to work with Homeland security to track millions of their customers calls without notification to the customer that their privacy rights are being violated by doing this.

  22. awelfle says:

    They are already viewing our spending habits. Look at the Kroger Plus cards, the CVS pharmacy cards. It’s a paranoid essay, yes, but sadly naive.

  23. wesrubix says:

    In the future? No. It’s already done.
    Citigroup and other large financial institutions that have credit cards have some of the most sophisticated data mining operations on the planet. Data mining techniques on purchases allow these companies to validate purchases (and also target new offers and new customers better). You thought they just GUESS when to call you about if you bought something they thought was unusual? HA.

  24. Jesus On A Pogo Stick says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    I shave my arms and I’m female. I have black hair and the hair on my arms was black as well and it really bothered. Just a little something that makes me feel better about myself.

  25. Jesus On A Pogo Stick says:

    @awelfle: Yeah, but you don’t have to supply them with your information or even sign up for them. I always take the card but don’t give them my address.

  26. Alvis says:

    @alice_bunnie: That assumes 1) if I provide a known valid address, the USPS can’t do what my postage pays them to do or 2) I care if I get my letter back.

    I take the first for granted, and the second isn’t a legitimate cause for suspicion, yet it’s become as such.

  27. Sonnymooks says:


    Off the back of my head, sending out death threats to people.

    I had a friend who was african american, when him
    and his wife moved to a new neighborhod years ago, they got death threats mailed to them.

    No return address, but they did eventually find out who was mailing it anyway. Iroically, it turned out not to be racially motivated, but the letters themselves were racist in nature and it was unnerving for them.

  28. Winca says:

    You could do what I do.

    Write the address of the person you want to send the letter to in the “return” area, and your name in the “To” area. Don’t put any postage.

    They’ll “return” the letter to the person, claiming insufficient postage.
    I’m such a rat bastard.

  29. Echodork says:

    You guys don’t seriously put your own name and address on your Giant discount cards, do you?

    Do you?

  30. nuton2wheels says:

    Every time I go to Target, they give me a $1.50 off coupon for their store brand bath tissue automatically. It’s good TP, no doubt.

  31. Blueskylaw says:

    Does anyone know where I can buy one of those machines that removes the tracking device from your body through the nose? Like in Total Recall.

  32. Frank M. Ahearn says:

    How to Disappear… Again

    My name is Frank M. Ahearn and if you read my other articles, you would know that I am in the business of teaching people how to disappear and be more private. I have updated some of the tools to disappearing and living a virtual life.

    Start by getting an email address, I always suggests or When checking your mail it is wise to do from an internet café away from where you live.

    Fax Service
    I think one of the greatest internet tools are Jfax and Efax numbers offered by and You can have a voicemail box or fax number in every state and almost every country. How does it work, simple sign up and get virtual number anywhere you want. You give the number out as your voicemail or fax, your family, friend or clients contact you ate your new number in Aruba and that transmission is forwarded to your above address.

    What is great about this service is you can fax from your laptop anywhere in the world.

    Virtual Office
    If you need a full-blown virtual office, I recommend

    Cellular Phone Service
    Before you buy, cell phones for international use understand, an international cell phone is classified as a GSM mobile phone that operates on the GSM 900 and GSM 1800 frequency. An international cell phone with the appropriate sim card will provide coverage in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim including Australia. A world cell phone with the GSM 1900 frequency will expand coverage to include the United States, Canada and a growing part of South America.

    To stay out from under the radar I suggest a prepaid cell phone from For added security, I suggest using a prepaid international calling card to make calls on your prepaid phone. For added security, I suggest you change your cell number or dump your phone every so often.

    I use several cell phones, one for out going calls and the other for incoming. I have the incoming cell phone forwarded to another prepaid cell phone.

    Mail Drops
    To have a physical mailing address I suggest as advertised on They offer other services like virtual phone numbers and faxes; however, I suggest not having all of your services with one company, just incase someone breaches your information.
    How to Make Money
    One of my clients who expatriated to Madrid, Spain makes great living selling watches on Never touching the merchandise and having the funds transferred immediately into his account. My friend in Spain realized he had so much experience selling watches, he wrote an EBook about watches that tripled his income. Look at his site Classic Watch Company.

    The internet is like the Wild West all over again, money to be made hand over fist. If you were a waiter, write that EBook How to Make Better Tips, if you were a taxi driver, write the EBook on Taxi Drivers Safety. Plenty of people are making money on E-book’s you can as well.

    When you write that EBook send, it to they are always looking for quality E-Books.

    New Identities
    New identities, if you are not a criminal you do not need a new identity. There are several reasons for not obtaining a new identity beside the legalities. You do not know whose identity you are obtaining, they could have fifty thousand dollars in IRS judgments and the IRS to satisfy the debt can seize your bank account.

    The new identity you obtain can have a warrant for an arrest, or a registered sex offender that has to register with the police because of the Megan’s law. The idea of going to the cemetery and find a child who died at an early age and obtain their information, forget it, you missed the boat on this one – it will not work.

    Taxes & Income
    Get a good accountant, audit are not fun. I speak from experience.

    The laws are different from country to country, hire a local lawyer, one that was recommend from a good source. One of my clients in Central America paid $95,000.00 US for a condominium, what he did not learn until after the fact was the condominium was actually listed for 95,000.00 in the local currency, which made the property truly valued at 49k US. Buyers beware.

    I tell my clients not to get one; however, it’s a personal choice. First Antilles Offshore offers several services from second passports to Residency Packages, check their site

    IBC & Bank Accounts
    International Business Corporations, setting up an IBC up is relatively easy, there are so many countries that offer a wide arrange of services. Take your time, determine the solvency of the bank and country, and understand the fees and structures.

    When I opened my first IBC I never asked how long it took funds to clear, it turned out it was thirty days and caused me nothing but problems. Ask some very simples questions, things you would normally overlook. How long for funds to clear, cash and checks. What are the bank fees, some banks charge more then you would expect. How long does it take to wire transfer? The ATM card, what are the fees and the 24-hour spending limit.

    Do not forget get a good accountant!

    Relocation Companies
    Some great companies assist people moving offshore, if you are going to Paris check out a great site and service. Pick up some B-books about your destination and visit your location before moving or buying property.

    Three Keys to Disappearing:

    Misinformation is the art of taking every piece of data existing about you, deviating them and destroying them beyond recognition. Keep in mind your home phone number list 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. Call up those companies and change your contact information on file.

    Disinformation is the art of leaving a bogus trail. If you are looking to disappear, make tons of phone calls to realtors all over the country. Make small purchases on your credit card, perhaps a cheap airline ticket or a bus ticket to Iowa. The key is to have the person shadowing you look in places you are not.

    Reformation is the art of getting from where you are to where you want to be and leave no trails.

    Good luck on your travels and ventures.


    Frank M. Ahearn
    Privacy Expert