Frank M. Ahearn is a privacy expert who teaches people how to disappear completely -- well, at least in the figurative, never-heard-from-again sense.
And he claims that his new book, "How to Disappear," is the world's No. 1 guide to "vanishing without a trace." (Fittingly, his website sports a pay-by-cash method so eager readers who may or may not be in hiding don't have to leave any pesky "digital footprints.")
Fascinated, we fired off an e-mail to the author, who hasn't jumped ship for New Zealand just yet:
Budgeteer: First of all, what are the main reasons people would choose to disappear? Upon hearing about this book, I thought of some pretty tantalizing reasons to do so -- but perhaps there are less "cinematic" reasons for doing so that most wouldn't think of.
Ahearn: There are two key ingredients: danger and money. Some people deal with stalkers, abusive ex-spouses or someone who came into money and does not want friends or family to locate them.
I think the reality is disappearing is possible: You are a writer in Duluth who could realistically pick up and go to South America and still write. A person like you has no geographical boundaries, and the best part is you could expatriate and choose a country that has a better tax rate than the States.
What influenced you to write this book? And did you ever feel writing this book would cut into your business that focuses on helping people disappear?
I really did not want to write a how-to book; I feel they can be somewhat cheap, like the get-rich-quick type of books. I kind of became the "Dear Abby" of disappearing and, next thing you know, people are e-mailing me from all over the world and my ex-partner and co-author Eileen suggested I write the book and so I did.
Honestly, I never thought the book would actually get published, but I suppose being too close to something makes things a little blurry. This business for me is temporary, as [is] this book -- I have my own walk-away plan.
Is it true you run a business that helps people disappear and another that facilitates the finding of said people via skip tracing? Do you ever run into conflicts, say when someone is trying to find the same John Doe you helped hide?
I started out as a skip tracer/social engineer that hunted people down worldwide, but the privacy law has restricted that business. I walked away from it and am only doing the privacy.
I have never had any conflicts [outside of] a few crazy people e-mailing and accusing me of hiding their ex-husband who owes child support.
In a recent interview you suggested New Zealand is one of the best places to "disappear." What about that country prompted you to recommend it as a final destination?
It is a long way off and has great beaches! Also, it is an English-speaking country; it is easy to acclimate [to life there].
Finally, in the age of Facebook, obviously there are some things everyone can learn about digital footprints -- is this topic something your book covers?
My book talks big about digital footprints and the dangers of social media, social networking and giving your information away online.
Learn more about Frank M. Ahearn and his book "How to Disappear: Erase Your Digital Footprint, Leave False Trails and Vanish without a Trace" at www.disappear.info.