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DTMark

Disappearing Without Trace

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If you're as cynical as I am, you'll read this and think it's about me. It isn't. I actually thought I'd get around to doing something I've meant to do for ages, which is to write a novel.

In researching this, and for it to be faintly credible, I need to find out how easy it would be to "slip through the system" and vanish.

For example, you can change your name.

You could then move somewhere else.

However as soon as you "re-enter the system" it's possible for people to find out who you were. For example if you applied for a bank account, I believe credit reference agencies can "link" the old "you" to the new one (even though you would not give your previous name and address), and it doesn't seem credible that someone aged 30-ish has literally no credit history at all. Though perhaps you'd have got away with this in the "boom years".

Some Agatha Christie plot devices include someone turning out to be a relative or known associate who had been living alongside the victim for a while purporting to be somebody else. Yet, I struggle with the credibility of that. Even in those days (say, 1930s) without all the tech, I'm pretty sure you'd feel some sort of "biological connection" if the person is actually related to you, or else recognise them in some way. AFAIK They didn't have plastic surgery in those days but that's not part of the intended story.

Is it credible that someone could actually, and literally, "vanish without a trace"?

One part of my research would include sleeping rough on the streets and in some woodland. I wonder how far I'll take this..

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I wouldn't worry too much about accuracy when writing; it just has to be believable and fit with the structure of the novel.

Remember that most people who read a novel aren't testing it for correctness against a set of facts that they are experts in. *You* know an awful lot about how AML and KYC rules make opening a bank account bloody hard these days - 99% of the population haven't got a clue. And even those who have an inkling will be happy to overlook the inaccuracy of saying "and a day with a high quality printer and photoshop resulted in an identity good enough to fool banks and landlords - if not the CIA" if the story line is strong enough.

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I'd say it's not difficult to build a partially new identity.

I've never had a landlord ask for ID - and once you have a place to stay, the utility companies will take any name you give them (probably). So you now have proof that someone of that name lives there.

The more difficult thing is photo id. That would have to be got hold of in a dodgy manner - but given the various real life crime shows, it seems to be possible to do so.

Photo ID and utility statements is enough to open a bank account.

Immigrants disappear without a trace all of the time (apparently) so it can't be that difficult.

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Creating a fake ID is easy. All you need is an address.

  • Go to a graveyard and find the grave of somebody who died in childbirth but would be around the same age as you if they had lived.
  • Get their birth certificate from the local town hall.
  • With this birth certificate apply for a basic bank account or post office account.
  • Then with a bank statement and the birth certificate apply for a provisional driving license then pass the test and get a full one.
  • Then apply for a passport.
  • Then change your surname at the local town hall and have the surname on all the documents changed to that name.

And voila you have a new identity.

The address is important as you need these documents to be sent to an address and it is the address where any investigation by the police would start.

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One part of my research would include sleeping rough on the streets and in some woodland. I wonder how far I'll take this..

Living on the streets can be difficult as lots of charitable agencies help the homeless and a description of you might end up on a data base somewhere. I know that the Salvation Army try and keep track of homeless people in case relatives try and locate them.

I think the best way to disappear is to hide in plain sight. Move to a big city, get a job in a small office where you will not come into contact with the public. Drive to work rather than using get public transport etc.

The odds of someone finding you are very remote.

Living in the woods is difficult because you would earn the reputation of 'the crazy guy who lives up a tree' and people would know about you even if they had never seen you. You might be the first point of call for any local police investigation as well.

Moving to another country would maybe be the best bet. Working on an oil rig in Kuwait or something maybe? A Buddhist retreat in Laos?

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Creating a fake ID is easy. All you need is an address.

[*]Go to a graveyard and find the grave of somebody who died in childbirth but would be around the same age as you if they had lived.

[*]Get their birth certificate from the local town hall.

That route - made famous in some book decades back but still in use until quite recently[1] - has been closed. I can't remember what change was made to block it. However, it may still work in other parts of the world and there may be a cross border method (birth cert from one (Commonwealth, perhaps) country, create ID in new country) you can work.

[1] The cops even used it when creating fake identities to infiltrate the environmentalist (and I'm sure others that haven't come to light) organisations.

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Creating a fake ID is easy. All you need is an address.

  • Go to a graveyard and find the grave of somebody who died in childbirth but would be around the same age as you if they had lived.

  • Get their birth certificate from the local town hall.

  • With this birth certificate apply for a basic bank account or post office account.

  • Then with a bank statement and the birth certificate apply for a provisional driving license then pass the test and get a full one.

  • Then apply for a passport.

  • Then change your surname at the local town hall and have the surname on all the documents changed to that name.

And voila you have a new identity.

The address is important as you need these documents to be sent to an address and it is the address where any investigation by the police would start.

Jolly roger cookbook?

I always wondered about the death/birth certificate part of that. Can joe nobody really just rock up and ask for any old certificate he likes?

And the bank account bit seems a bit suspect. Don't they check the electoral role/credit history?

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That route - made famous in some book decades back but still in use until quite recently[1] - has been closed. I can't remember what change was made to block it.

I don't see how they can close it. Anyone can ask for a copy of a birth certificate.

edit .... i will have a look on line and see...

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Is it credible that someone could actually, and literally, "vanish without a trace"?

One part of my research would include sleeping rough on the streets and in some woodland. I wonder how far I'll take this..

I am convinced that Queensland, Australia contains a fair few 'off the radar' people of various European nationalities, perhaps in the region around Coen. You could try a spell there. You'll meet some interesting people, for sure.

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Jolly roger cookbook?

I always wondered about the death/birth certificate part of that. Can joe nobody really just rock up and ask for any old certificate he likes?

And the bank account bit seems a bit suspect. Don't they check the electoral role/credit history?

Family tree info ...

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Gosh! You are all wanting to commit fraud? :blink:

Let's hope nobody is pretending to be me! :lol:

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Making it difficult for people to find out where you are is surprisingly easy

Move house

Don't tell anyone where you have gone.

Dont get your post redirected

Don't get a phone line installed.

Don't die or get married

Drop any internet presence in your real name

Of course the police/NSA can still track you via bank accounts, medical records etc but normal people won't have access to that information.

Thousands of people go 'missing' every year because they do this without thinking about it.

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It's quite easy to do it if you move between countries. Harder to do within one country.

Who is your character trying to disappear FROM? That will drive the story.

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I once knew a guy who'd faked his identity. He'd done time in Liverpool jail for shooting somebody in the foot (an accident, he told me, but NEVER tell anyone that. It would ruin his reputation as a hard man....). He only did a short time, about a year, as it was fairly obvious self defence.

On his release, he pretended to be Irish labourer, eventually getting a NI number under his assumed name. Later, he even managed to get married under his false name. By this time he had bank accounts, driving license (retook the test) - the whole lot, but not a passport or birth certificate. This was all to avoid the private detectives hired by his grasping avaricious ex-wife, and it succeeded. He even got bailiffs coming round with court orders in his new name!

I don't know if it is possible nowadays though, with inter-linked computer systems.

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Buy a canal boat cash ( with a wood burning stove) cruise continuously ( in practice this means move once a week or so) Fill the tank with diesel and the boat withy tinned food, get wood from driftwood or the canal banks. You won't need to interact with society for a year or more. Quite a few ex husbands do this kind of thing to avoid the CSA, there are 2000 km of navigable water ways in the uk and the chances of anyone finding you are zero.

How you reemerge after this see above, though I suppose if you did it for a few years you will be fogotten about

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That route - made famous in some book decades back but still in use until quite recently[1] -

Day of the Jackal. They've apparently now linked death certificates to the passport database so you can't apply for the passport of a dead person.

They could just stamp birth certificates not for the actual person as specimens or copies so they couldn't then be used as proof of id.

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This thread reminds me of a french tv series called 'Les Revenants' or 'The Returned' in English.When the dead come back to life.

IMHO i would say that 99% of those who vanish without a trace are dead.

You have to bear in mind that maybe just maybe nobody will be out there looking for .

Last year in Lille the skeleton of a man who had died 15 years ago was found in his house.

Nobody was looking for him no wife or children alone and isolated from society.

Nobody cares.

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This thread reminds me of a french tv series called 'Les Revenants' or 'The Returned' in English.When the dead come back to life.

IMHO i would say that 99% of those who vanish without a trace are dead.

You have to bear in mind that maybe just maybe nobody will be out there looking for .

Last year in Lille the skeleton of a man who had died 15 years ago was found in his house.

Nobody was looking for him no wife or children alone and isolated from society.

Nobody cares.

I care, Mr Wine! :huh:

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If you're as cynical as I am, you'll read this and think it's about me. It isn't. I actually thought I'd get around to doing something I've meant to do for ages, which is to write a novel.

In researching this, and for it to be faintly credible, I need to find out how easy it would be to "slip through the system" and vanish.

For example, you can change your name.

You could then move somewhere else.

However as soon as you "re-enter the system" it's possible for people to find out who you were. For example if you applied for a bank account, I believe credit reference agencies can "link" the old "you" to the new one (even though you would not give your previous name and address), and it doesn't seem credible that someone aged 30-ish has literally no credit history at all. Though perhaps you'd have got away with this in the "boom years".

Some Agatha Christie plot devices include someone turning out to be a relative or known associate who had been living alongside the victim for a while purporting to be somebody else. Yet, I struggle with the credibility of that. Even in those days (say, 1930s) without all the tech, I'm pretty sure you'd feel some sort of "biological connection" if the person is actually related to you, or else recognise them in some way. AFAIK They didn't have plastic surgery in those days but that's not part of the intended story.

Is it credible that someone could actually, and literally, "vanish without a trace"?

One part of my research would include sleeping rough on the streets and in some woodland. I wonder how far I'll take this..

Agatha Christie "disappeared" for a week or so once, or was that just a publicity stunt? You should research "Witness protection Program" IMO.

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There was that 'fast eddie' who recently was found after 17 years or something. Only because a pissed off ex girlfriend of his son grassed him up, not the authorities themselves. He didnt look particularly sharp, so It cant be that difficult.

OTOH, IIRC the authorities now take everyone's DNA at birth and keep it on file indefinitely, so maybe its different now.

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I do think it's possible to disappear without trace. The technology that can be used to trace you can also be used to disappear you. The confidential access site did this for years. It is not against any law in the UK to change any/all of your personal details apart from your date of birth. These guys are in jail now but apparently the real site is still active if you go dark enough.

http://nakedsecurity...dential-access/

http://www.bridgeway...rison-sentences

For the purposes of a book you could have your character purchase ID documents from a fraud factory site like caxess.

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Jason Bourne had multiple passports in a case or bag? I don`t remember the film going into detail about how he obtained them. Saying that a character had "gone to somebody who knows about these things" would probably satisfy most readers if the writing and plotting is good?

Something I am thinking about for a short story I am working on is - How does a character who does not age, or who ages much slower than normal people hide his identity and move on from connections he has made like wives or girlfriends when the fact that he is not ageing is becoming too obvious? He could avoid all intimate connections with people, but it would be hard to function without someone noticing, and how would he re-invent younger identities with ID papers/passport that held up to scrutiny so he could work or travel? The time span in my story involves him living from the 1920`s to the present day without ageing properly, so the 113 year old man would have the physical capability of someone in their early 60`s.

I know "Highlander" deals with this over much longer time spans, but I don`t recall much detail of how the main character managed to pass off his identity apart from the little girl he saved in WW 2 being his secretary in the 1980`s and helping to keep the secret?

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Jason Bourne had multiple passports in a case or bag? I don`t remember the film going into detail about how he obtained them. Saying that a character had "gone to somebody who knows about these things" would probably satisfy most readers if the writing and plotting is good?

Something I am thinking about for a short story I am working on is - How does a character who does not age, or who ages much slower than normal people hide his identity and move on from connections he has made like wives or girlfriends when the fact that he is not ageing is becoming too obvious? He could avoid all intimate connections with people, but it would be hard to function without someone noticing, and how would he re-invent younger identities with ID papers/passport that held up to scrutiny so he could work or travel? The time span in my story involves him living from the 1920`s to the present day without ageing properly, so the 113 year old man would have the physical capability of someone in their early 60`s.

I know "Highlander" deals with this over much longer time spans, but I don`t recall much detail of how the main character managed to pass off his identity apart from the little girl he saved in WW 2 being his secretary in the 1980`s and helping to keep the secret?

It was dead babies birth certs I think.

There's also the Comte de Saint Germain who Eco deals with fairly well in Foucault's Pendulum, not much beurocratic details but you get the idea of doing it through "connections" and having a hold over the people who matter.

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It was dead babies birth certs I think.

There's also the Comte de Saint Germain who Eco deals with fairly well in Foucault's Pendulum, not much beurocratic details but you get the idea of doing it through "connections" and having a hold over the people who matter.

Interesting link, thanks. I suppose a writer just has to use their imagination and make however the character overcomes obstacles interesting and believable (up to a point?) Most of the plots on time travel, staying young etc. have been done multiple times, it is just building a gripping story around it that is the thing big selling writers are good at?

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