Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How to Disappear...An Update

I was contacted by a friend of a friend of a friend a few days ago.  Seems this young lady needed to disappear from a domestic violence situation and needed to do so quickly.  Although I am pretty much out of the helping business these days, these situations seem to pop up occasionally so I do what I can...

First they get the analysis.

What are they running from?  Can less nuclear options be used than a total disappearance?  What resources do they have available?  How serious are they?  What are they willing to give up?  What extenuating circumstances could make this more difficult?

Sometimes a short-term disappearance to let the situation calm down will work.  In other cases, nothing short of a complete disappearance will avoid things such as a psychotic, murderous ex or a family bent on an honor killing.  This situation fell towards the later.

Then they get the lecture.  It goes something like this...

  • A restraining order is worth jack in most cases (but serves the prosecution AFTER a crime has been committed).
  • If a person has enough time, resources, and dedication, they will find you.  Eventually.
  • Disappearing for good will be a difficult, rather expensive, lonely, and permanent endeavor.
  • Unless you are part of a WitSec program, the difficulty and expense level will grow ten-fold.  You will still be lonely.
  • If your life is depending on your successful disappearance you will need to give up EVERYTHING.
  • In some cases, while disappearing for good sounds like the best idea, extenuating circumstances may make this the less desirable way to go (ie: disappearing to avoid legal repercussions or debt is dumb, you made the problem, you fix it.  Disappearing with kids is infinitely more complicated and can change your perfectly legal disappearance into a crime). 
That being said, this is how you disappear.
  • You take your passport, driver's license, cash, Social Security card, and birth certificate and walk away.  You don't change your daily routine, you don't tell anyone your plans, you do stash as much cash as possible, you don't look up things on your computer that could point to you disappearing.  You pick an opportune time and walk away.
At which point people say "WTF???"

Which I then reply with:
  • Your life as you knew it is gone.  You are a new person.  Pick a new name and use it.
  • Dress in non-descript clothing (jeans, t shirt, tennis shoes...no Braves ball cap, no unique t shirt, no backpack with all of your regular clothing in it).  Hop on the city bus (pay cash) and get a reasonable distance away to an area where you are unlikely to know anyone.
  • Hit up the $1 Store, the Goodwill, Walmart, etc. and pick up everything you would need as if you were going on vacation...a backpack, a toiletry kit, clothing, underwear, a cell phone, a tablet or laptop...basically if you were to pack at home for an extended vacation, what would you pack? You need to buy all of these things.  WITH CASH.  Things to change your appearance may also be useful such as hair dye or make up.
  • Your cell phone is one of the easiest ways to track you.  Leave it behind. When you get a good enough distance away, walk into a busy store like Walmart or Target and pay cash for a new prepaid phone and pre-paid minutes card.  DO NOT associate this phone with your name in any way (like using your email address to activate the phone).  DO NOT call anyone you know with this phone.
  • Your laptop and/or tablet can also be tracked.  Leave these behind.  You can save all of your files on a USB drive but you will not be opening these files for a very long time (individual files can also be bugged).  Any important information you may need from your computer should be written down on paper and taken with you.  Remove the hard drive and smash it to bits and dispose of it on your way out of town (in a lake, spread among garbage cans, etc).
  • You may want to take non-descript jewelry with you but anything of extreme sentimental value should be left in a hidden cache (either secured and buried where you can later find it or in an anonymous lock box).
  • Realize that you will never use social media again.  Yes, when you get your new cell phone or laptop you can sign up for a new email address but you will never be logging into your social media accounts again and you will never be posting photos of yourself on social media ever again (facial recognition software is quite good these days).
  • Realize that you will never contact anyone you know again (family, friends, co-workers, school mates, etc...NO ONE).  You can drop a letter in the mail on your way out of town to a family member or friend letting them know that you voluntarily disappeared so they can call of the police search for you but this will be the last time you contact them.
  • You will leave behind anything else that can create a trail to finding you: credit cards, vehicles, etc.  You will never again use your: bank account (which you should have drained of all money anyway before you leave), credit accounts, etc.
  • You will also need to leave behind every habit you have ever had.  If you used to hang out at coffee shops, you won't any more.  If you had a pet, no more.  If you were bilingual in English and Spanish, you are now monolingual in English only.  Any habit that could be used to identify you needs to be discontinued.
  • You may want to change up your appearance.  Get a hair cut and dye job.  Dress differently than you did before.  Tattoos should be covered up then changed as soon as possible.  Depending on how extreme you want to go, spray tanning, shaving your head, and even plastic surgery could be options.
  • Dress to blend in with your environment.  You want to become as non-memorable as possible.
  • Utilize non-identifying means of travel, lodging, and working.  Travel on foot or by bicycle.  Public transport is another option as long as it doesn't record your identity (like flying or using a bus pass that is in your name).  CraigsListing rides and places to stay, Warm Showers, and Couch Surfing are other cheaper options for transport and shelter but your hosts will remember you.  Staying in hotels will require your ID and will leave an easy to follow trail.  No-tell motels may be an option.  Working under the table will be your only option at this point.  Camping, especially stealth camping, are good options when you disappear.
  • Note that having no safety net and living like a homeless person can have many added dangers you need to be aware of.
  • Note that you will need to become a consummate liar (obviously it will take a great deal of effort not to get tangled up in your lies).
  • Don't commit fraud.  Don't fake your death.  Don't use a stolen identity.  While disappearing is completely legal; doing illegal things will give the police a reason to hunt you down.
  • Obviously you will want to avoid law enforcement at all costs and security cameras if at all possible.
  • Eventually you will want to stop being on the run (how possible this is depends on the situation you are running from).  In this day and age, it is virtually impossible to get a new identity unless the government is helping you (ie: Witness Protection Program).  You can move far away and change your name and hope that the particular courthouse you use puts a low priority on digitizing their records.
Contrary to decades previous, completely disappearing and becoming a whole, new, never to be found person is virtually impossible these days.  You can do your best to stay hidden, "fly under the radar", and provide enough misleading information to give you time but you will always be looking over your shoulder.  You may make new friends (difficult when they always feel that you are hiding something from them) but you will never see your old friends or family again.  You will be lonely, stressed, possibly broke and homeless.  Only you can decide if completely disappearing is the option for you.

And some more resources: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

75 Resources for Active Duty and Retired Military

I haven't updated this list in a couple of years so thought I would take a bit of time to share this useful information.  Here's a bunch of resources for current and past military members (and even a few for their dependents).
  1. Veterans Crisis Line
  2. Free Annual National Parks Pass
  3. Military commissaries
  4. Space A Travel
  5. Housing Services
  6. USO Centers
  8. State Veteran's Benefits
  9. Red Cross Military Services
  10. VA Home Loan Benefits
  11. GI Bill
  12. Military Banks and Credit Unions
  13. Military Rape Crisis Center
  14. County Veteran's Services
  15. Veteran's Franchisee Program
  16. Veteran's SBA Program
  17. Veteran's Burial Benefits
  18. Veteran's Life Insurance
  19. Tax Prep Services
  20. USAA Financial Services
  21. Veteran's Pension Program
  22. PTSD Center
  23. Incarcerated Vets Program
  24. Homeless Vets Services
  25. BAH Housing Allowance
  26. VA Medical Care
  27. Military Campgrounds and RV Parks
  28. Free Legal Assistance
  29. Veteran's Employment and Training Services
  30. Minority Veteran's Services
  31. Service Member Civil Relief Act
  32. Disability Compensation
  33. Military Child Care Program
  34. Veteran's Scholarships
  35. Military Spouse and Family Educational Assistance
  36. Women Veterans Services
  37. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
  38. Native American Veterans Programs
  39. Military Transition Assistance Program
  40. Military Awards and Decorations
  41. Military and Veterans Records
  42. Military Lodging Facilities
  43. Military Reunion Center
  44. Federal Job Preference
  45. Military and Veterans Clubs
  46. Agent Orange Compensation
  47. Former POWs Services
  48. Voting Assistance Program
  49. Military Exchange Services
  50. Military Thrift Shops
  51. Military Fitness Centers and Gyms
  52. MWR Programs
  53. Walk Off the War Program
  54. Returning Service Members Program
  55. Veteran's Day Discounts and Freebies
  56. Memorial Day Discounts and Freebies
  57. Veterans County Tax Exemptions
  58. Wounded Warrior Project
  59. Armed Forces Sports Programs
  60. Wedding Discounts
  61. Apple Military Discount
  62. Family Caregiver Program
  63. Breast Implants
  64. Military Corporate Discounts
  65. On-base Veterinary Services
  66. Armed Forces Vacation Club
  67. In-State Tuition
  68. Cell Phone Discounts
  69. Gym and Health Club Discounts
  70. Community Military Runs
  71. Discounted Hunting and Fishing Licenses
  72. Military Spouse Career Assistance
  73. A giant list of military discounts
  74. Theme Park Discounts
  75. K-9 Adoption Program

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Concealed Carry vs Open Carry

If you haven't been over to the CNI website, you may have missed this Daily Insight link which gives a pretty good explanation of concealed vs open carry.  IMHO, here are the situations where concealed and open carry are appropriate:

Open Carry

  • When you are participating in an open carry event.  When lots of people are carrying openly at an open-carry event in order to make a legal/political point, you may see a boatload of firearms however the threat level from said firearms in very low.  And the public won't, in general, feel threatened.
  • When you are making a tactical point.  I found it at first surprising that many clerks at corner-type stores in high-crime areas in Florida carry openly.  After a quick pondering of this situation, it only makes sense that #1 the average robber will think twice about robbing these stores and #2 should the need for a quick draw arise, open carry will enhance the carrier's ability to do so.
  • In areas where open carry is part of the culture.  In many rural areas, open carry isn't that unusual.  An openly carried firearm is less a political point than it is a standard tool, commonly used for whatever purpose (ie: firearms during hunting season, open carry when working on the range, etc).
  • For advertising.  Oddly enough, one of the few young women I have ever seen--in an urban area--openly carrying a firearm was also wearing a polo shirt with the name and info about the shooting range she worked at.  It made a surprisingly good advertisement for said range.

Concealed Carry

  • When you don't want to scare the public.  This should be the default almost any time you are carrying in public these days, since, when the public sees someone carrying a firearm openly, they automatically think "mass shooter".  No need to draw that sort of negative attention to yourself.
  • When you want to keep a low profile.  Again, another default.  Personally I see no need to openly carry just to prove a point (yes it is my legal right to openly carry but why advertise to everyone that #1 I am armed, #2 I probably have a nice collection of firearms at home, and #3 I am to be perceived as a threat).
  • All the time.  Carrying a concealed weapon is a serious choice.  The carrier needs to get a concealed carry permit and needs to educate themselves on all facets of concealed carry (not the least of which is regular training with the weapon).  Then the decision becomes when you should carry and the answer, not surprisingly, should be regularly and often.  Having a concealed carry weapon is like using a seat belt--you never know when you will need it but when you do need it, you will need it NOW.  Note that you should never think "I need to carry my concealed weapon because I am going into a bad neighborhood/I am entering into a possibly dangerous situation/I may run into a person who is a threat to me.  If any of those situations arise, you should have the forethought to NOT put yourself into the situation to begin with.
And more info here:

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Day, Another Shooting

Really, what more is there to write on this topic that has gone from a societal anomaly to a nearly daily occurrence?

A few days ago we had a couple of police officers ambushed and killed while they were eating in a local restaurant.  Also killed was a good guy with a concealed carry license/firearm who tried to stop the shooters.  I don't know what the fuck is wrong with people these days.

And apparently neither does anyone else...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Tiny Emergency Food Pack

How many times have you been caught out at meal time and there was no meal in sight (or there were some restaurants/fast food places but they happen to have sky-high prices because they are at venues with a captive audience)?  The answer to this problem is to make a tiny emergency food pack that can be kept in your briefcase/day pack/messenger bag and utilized under these emergency conditions.  Here are some items to include:

  • Your choice of beverage mix: tea bag instant coffee packet, powdered drink mix packet
  • Gum or mints
  • Granola bar
  • Packet of instant soup
  • Jerky
  • Mini-sized candy
  • Small bag of pretzels
  • Small packet of nuts
  • Small box of raisins
  • Packet of dried fruit (apricots, mangoes, etc)
  • Dried fish (like dried cuttlefish found in Asian stores)
  • Nut butter squeeze packet
  • Tiny seasoning packets: salt, pepper, sugar, Tabasco, etc

Thursday, May 29, 2014

10 Tips for Conventions and Other Big Events

Well the WSOP (World Series of Poker) has begun and I've already made my donation but I digress...here are ten tips to consider when you are participating in any big event (like a conference, trade show, the biggest poker game in the world, etc).

  1. Be ready to take care of your basic needs.  While most events like these take place in urban surroundings and you are sure to find a Starbucks not too far away, you may be out at odd hours when stores and restaurants are closed and/or you may be appalled at the exorbitant prices charged for food and beverages at these venues.  Be sure to bring enough food to sustain you for a day or so as well as a couple of bottles of water.
  2. Dress in layers.  In Vegas the temperature can run from a high of 110 outside to a cool 65 degrees in overly air conditioned hotels.  Dress in layerable clothes and bring a jacket just in case.  Don't forget to wear comfortable shoes as these venues can be huge and entail a lot of walking.
  3. Bring a big bag/daypack.  This will make it easier to schlep your stuff around, pick up souvenirs and handouts, etc.
  4. Bring cash.  Yes, most places will take credit or debit cards but there may be the odd restaurant or vendor (or the entirety of the WSOP which only deals in cash) that will not accept a card and you will thus be required to use cold, hard, cash (yes, you will probably be able to find an ATM close by but in venues such as casinos they can charge a whopping $5 to $10 just to access your money!).
  5. Do a bit of recon before you begin your event.  Know where all of the exits are, note where security is, get a feel for the area and if you will be wandering about outside ask where the bad neighborhoods are.  Check out posted times for restaurants, vendors, and the events you will be participating in.
  6. Watch your money.  Big events with people happily spending money can draw out all kinds from small-time pickpockets to high class hookers, all happy to relieve you of your hard-earned cash.  Be aware and take precautions to safeguard your stuff (money, iPhones, etc) at all times.
  7. And the corollary, watch yourself.  These away from home/away from the office kinds of events tend to bring out the wild part of people.  Don't let this sudden bit of freedom cause you to become overly intoxicated/overly drugged up/overly stupid because rest assured, someone will be waiting to take advantage of this.  Always remain in control of yourself and watch your buddies backs as well.
  8. Vacuum up information like a Bissell.  You can learn a lot online, sitting on your couch in the evening, but you can learn/do/experience so much more at big events that caters to your hobby/job/etc.  Gather as much info as you can, network like a fiend, talk to the vendors, learn as much as you can at the workshops or clinics that are scheduled, pay attention to others, etc.
  9. Put your vital info on your phone.  This can range from a photo of your passport/driver's license/airline tickets to an "In Case of Emergency number, the address and phone number of your hotel, and the phone number to the local cab company/pizza delivery place/embassy.
  10. Pace yourself.  I'm looking at the guy across from me who looks and smells like he has been on a three day bender, I know he has put a goodly sum of money down to get into this particular poker game, and he is slamming Red Bull like he owns stock in the company.  This is only day two of a six week event.  There is a tendency for people go all out, 24/7 when they a) get to the conference which is being held in a fun city, b) get to Vegas no matter the circumstances, or c) want to show off and "party like a rockstar" when the money (and women, food, cards, other vices) are flowing.  You want to live to fight another day so remember to plan your time and pace yourself.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

A heartfelt thanks to all of those who have served to protect our country on this Memorial Day.