Want To Get Away?

I had never thought about it that much, but being “in the wind” is a cottage industry. Desperate times for desperate people, I guess. It makes sense: if industry, lawyers and private investigators are all hot and bothered to find people, then there should be money in keeping people hidden. And there is!

While cutting my teeth in the business as an insurance defense investigator, I had a cool case once where a wayward California parole officer ran off with his police-intern honey to sail around the world. The parole officer, out of Vallejo, was out on a workers’ compensation claim. In a bold, bold play, he started applying for and getting credit card advances for over $200K. He hired his parolees to fix up his boat and then one day, poof, he was gone. My job was just to look into his comp claim, not to find him. He was serious and did it right. He got away. Was State Comp Insurance Fund going to hunt him down? Not a chance.

My boyhood friend Jonathan Silverman, Ph.D., got me thinking about this when he sent me this article about private investigator Frank Ahearn, who for a very hefty fee helps people disappear. I read his column. I would just add a few extra points.

For starters, if you want to go on the lam you can’t have anything in your name. Don’t expect to be tough to find when your name is on the deed where you live. Okay, so put everything worthwhile in someone else’s name. That takes a lot of trust.

A quick way to dead-end yourself is get a mail drop using an old utility bill and an old address on a driver’s license. (Investigators know that the last thing most folks do is change the address with DMV.) Then, open up a new address at a mail drop every few years. Go live on a goat farm, just don’t fill out a rental application.

Go on the offensive. I am blessed with a common name. I have not done the Census stats but I know “Michael Spencer” is the name of thousands and thousands in the United States and world. When I put the initial “J” in my name, I have slightly separated myself and am now easier to find. Private investigators use databases with information provided by the credit bureaus and utility companies. Get that Radio Shack card under a name variation and maybe claim that you live in the biggest apartment complex in town–just don’t specify a unit number.

Believe me, most private investigators and law offices are on a budget. I could burn up a lot of time and money tracking down bogus leads. Clients don’t like to pay for lots of field work, getting out from behind the desk to go knock on doors, interview friends and relatives, etc.

The part where being the lone- wolf gets really tough is how do you cut your ties to family? You have to avoid relationships if you want to live underground for long. I had a blog last Easter about a guy I had been unable to serve until I staked out his father’s place in Union City on Easter Sunday. He let his guard down, and I zapped him before he had his first chocolate bunny. No man is an island.

How many times do you hear about a fugitive being bagged because he came back for a wedding or a funeral? It happens.

So if you want to still live a more or less normal live, there are steps to take to make life difficult for investigators. Just weigh how much your opponent wants to find you.