Back on topic for obsessive October–stalkers. We’ve covered a few famous cases, but what you need to remember is that ANYONE can be stalked.
According to results from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 1 in 6 women (16.2%) and 1 in 19 men (5.2%) in the United States have experienced stalking victimization… (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, November 2011).
Stalking doesn’t just mean some creep following you around. The National Institute of Justice defines stalking as “harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property.” (Source)
Good news: All 50 states have laws that address stalking.
Bad news: the legal definition for stalking various across jurisdictions. Some state laws depend on the level of victim fear and emotional distress, as well as the intent of the stalker. States also vary on what level of fear is required for an offense to be considered stalking. (Source)
Some of the worse stalking happens between ex partners and spouses. How many times has your local or national news ran a story about a domestic violence situation where the ex has been harassing the victim for weeks and nothing was done–or could have been done–to prevent it? Restraining orders aren’t quite as easy to get as television makes it seems–again, the level of intent and victim fear has to be analyze, and it varies from state to state.
What would you do if you had a stalker and the police wouldn’t–or couldn’t–help? What if your stalker stayed one step ahead of them, like the Taker in my debut novel, Into The Dark? He knows the city, knows how to navigate the Vegas storm drains, knows how to lead a double life. He’s smart, streetwise, and heavy on charm. His victim, Emilie, is back on her heels from the very beginning of the book. He’s a faceless, nameless entity, and she’s terrified.
But what if you knew your stalker? What if he (or she–women stalk too) was an ex who refused to give up and their threats had become so severe you felt you had no choice but to disappear?
Could you do it?
In Frank Ahearn’s excellent book, How To Disappear, he uses his experience as a skip tracer–an expert used by media and any other interested source–to find people. He’s located jailbird, deadbeats, witnesses, celebrities…the list goes on. He didn’t locate people by name, address, and phone number. We’re talking bank accounts, social security numbers, DMV records, passwords, identity theft.
When they wanted to talk to some kids who had spent the night with Michael Jackson at Neverland, they called me. When they wanted to monitor O. J. Simpson’s bank accounts, they called me. I once was hired to find Ozzy Osbourne’s private telephone numbers for a paparazzo. –Frank Ahearn, How To Disappear
With the crackdowns in security over the years, Ahearn decided to use flip the switch–he started teaching people how to disappear.
He’s had a lot of clients since he turned legit, and a fair amount of them are victims running from stalkers. So how do you do it? It’s a complicated process, but I’ll try to give you the basics.
First up, find every bit of information about yourself and do your best to change it or destroy it. This means calling utilities companies and leaving bogus information, whether it’s a false address or deleting an account all together. It involves some serious lying, but it’s crucial to wipe out as much information as possible. It means removing your name from Google, from Yahoo, from phonebooks, warranties off electronics and accounts at stores, including the grocery, library cards. You get the picture.
They’ll start searching for you in obvious places: search engines, Internet databases, phone companies, utility companies. If they’re comfortable breaking the law, they’ll hit banks. Maybe they’ll get a cop buddy to run a criminal background check and a motor vehicle report. From there they’ll go to a laundry list of local businesses and service providers, hoping to find a valid account with your name on it. They’ll use their imaginations to figure out where you might be hiding. –Frank Ahearn, How to Disappear
Create a bogus trail for anyone searching for you. Just like a great story, disinformation starts off with a hook–a juicy bit of info that will send the stalker on a wild goose chase. Applying for an apartment, home loan, credit card, taking calls from an accessible phone line–anything to make a stalker believe they’ve found you.
Next is the line–even more information leading to your hook. Applying for utilities and phone services, giving fake employee information, preferably from a large local business.
Then, the sinker. If you’re faking a residence, open up a small checking account at a local bank. Then get a debit card and give it to someone you trust, someone who’s going to be traveling and can use it at random. This will send the stalker all over the place.
Frank Ahearn used this plan for a desperate client trying to escape a jailbird ex, and they managed to keep her safe. The client’s trail was all over the country while she was hiding in her new location.
Time for a new life. This is when you always use cash or prepaid credit cards. No smartphones. Always a prepaid phone or calling cards. Mail drops–this means a UPS or FedEx store, not the post office. Frank recommends establishing a corporation and putting any kind of must-have loan or lease into that corporation’s name. New computer if possible. Never use the Internet at home–go to a local wifi hotspot. No social media. Everything has to be new and as vague as possible. In order to keep in touch with family and friends, have a designated call time and change phones frequently.
Disappearing is complicated, and this is just a VERY SMALL synopsis of how to do it. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend Frank’s book. He writes in a fun style and is honest about the life he’s led.
What do you think? Could you disappear if you had to? Cut off contact with all friends and family? What would it take to make you that desperate?