How difficult would it be to disappear today in the USA?

Let’s say you want to intentionally leave all your friends and family behind, and start a new life under a new name without anyone being able to track you down. How difficult would that be to accomplish?

Changing your name is the hardest part. We had a local guy who left his family/friends with no notice. He moved about 1000 miles away and someone spotted him. He came back and got divorced and then left again to go back where he was staying. He went from NC to the gulf coast where he worked as a fishing guide.

It’s the electronics that get you. You would need to go off-grid completely: No bank, no credit card, work in the ‘black’ economy for cash etc.

If your friends and family aren’t going to put too much effort (money) into looking for you, it wouldn’t be hard at all - just move to a big city somewhere and change your appearance a little.

We have illegal aliens that seem to find new social security numbers but those are often flagged down later on. It kind of depends upon what kind of checks your employer makes.

Certain jobs like in banking or working for the government, they check out your background pretty well. Other jobs you could probably get away with it.

Then their are also the people who work under the table, cash only.

for a new name, it used to be that people would take on the identity of a person who died as a baby. That way the person had no records beyond just birth and death. That might still be possible now but probably not as easy as it was in the past. I don’t know if a background check looks into death records, I assume they don’t but maybe some do check that via Social security death index.

There’s a difference between officially changing your name, and just calling yourself something different. You can go by any name you like, as long as it’s not done with the intent to defraud.

Books have been written about it.

It’s difficult, but not impossible. And it’s a lot of work.

I am pretty invisible. I don’t exactly live off-grid. Though we are out there. I think I could disappear for a lengthy spell and no one would notice. But I like my comfort, amenities and life preserving insulin too much.

I remember reading some years ago that the Social Security Administration started asking for evidence of existence beyond infancy, school records and such, before issuing a number.

I’m not sure how that would work then, because if a family is getting any sort of assistance (Medicaid, food stamps, TANF, housing assistance, etc.) and a new baby comes into the family they have to get an SSN right off the bat.

There is disappearing/going off grid/cutting off with the past, and there’s changing identity. The first part is highly dependent on how motivated are the other people to find you and drag you back (and why) but does not require you to do anything subrepticious. It just becomes a test of who’s more hassle-tolerant.

RE: Social Security Numbers, it has been only since the late 80s/c. 1990, that SSNs really became de-facto required from birth, due to revisions to the tax code and other laws mandating a SSN to make claims for a dependent child. Many Boomers and even some older GenXers only got theirs in their teens, when they were about to encounter on-the-books employment and/or college applications; I could be enrolled in school without one. So for a long time there were coexisting in the same cohort people who got their SSN from childhood and others who did not until they were ready for the workforce. Now after 30 years, though, the SSA will want to know what took you so long.

I got my SSN around age 14 in the 70s. Now kids get them at birth at least since the early 90s.

Well, background checks of deaths wouldn’t be the problem–at least that wasn’t the case when that technique was used. The technique (called “paper tripping”) was possible up until the 1990s or so. It started by first finding the death certificate of the infant (who, at that time, usually wouldn’t have an SSN at such a young age), and then using the information from the death certificate to get the birth certificate. From there, you apply for a Social Security card, state ID card, etc. When I was in high school (the 80s), I was actually able to do this. It wasn’t just used by people who wanted to “disappear.” Foreign agents were using it, so the feds eventually started to work with local agencies to make it too difficult or risky to try.

Now, as mentioned above, most hospitals strongly encourage people to give newborns an SSN, and if the baby dies, that number appears as “deceased” in many databases, so it can’t be used to get other ID. Before, the paper tripper could assume that an infant didn’t have an SNN, and apply for one. Today, even if you could find a baby that died without an SNN, it’s pretty suspicious for an adult to be applying for an SNN today, and could lead to discovery. Additionally, many counties instituted the practice of cross referencing births and deaths. If a baby dies in the same county, they go back and mark the birth certificate as “deceased,” so it’s no good. Also, now, many county registrars won’t give out a birth or death certificate copy to just anyone, the way they used to. You have to be the person in question (for a birth certificate), or have some relationship to the person to get those documents.

That could be. It would make sense. And, as mentioned above, anyone 18 or older applying for a new SSN might be asked to have some explanation for why they hadn’t gotten one earlier. At the very least it would call attention.

This thread needs a “Need answer fast”

Making a passable birth certificate shouldn’t be too difficult to counterfeit. Using a computer scanner to change the name, DOB and such on your real birth certificate, then print out the final copy on official looking safety paper that certified copies come on. An embossed state seal can be purchased online.

Make 2 copies. One could have a recent date of birth so you could apply for a social security card for your “newly born infant”. That would eliminate the suspicion of an adult applying for one. SS cards have no DOB so once you have the card nobody else would know it was issued for an infant. Then using that card and the birth certificate get a drivers license. Then a local store charge card in the new name. Then a library card. Voila. You’ve created a new person out of thin air. Now vanish.

Given the increasing electronic coverage of your existence, including easy database checking of social security numbers, school records etc, would it be easier to adopt someone else’s identity and rely on their online presence, rather than trying to create one of your own from scratch?

And a supplementary, would it be hard to be their doppelganger, provided you made sure your paths never crossed?

The tax reform that made it mandatory to report SSNs of dependents was done in 1986. I was born in 1981, but already had a SSN because my father bought some savings bonds in my name. At least, that’s what my mother said when I questioned her as to why my original SSN was found in an envelope addressed to the place I lived between birth and 1984 (and not the place I lived in 1986) when I found out just when SSNs were required for dependents on tax returns.

I think that would trip someone up real quick. It would be extremely difficult to get documents in their name, and if you did get them to stay undetected about it.

It would be easier to fall off the radar by making up your own person and continuing life as that.

If people are looking for “you” they aren’t going to find “you” if “you” aren’t “you” anymore. If I’m looking for Joe Blow but he’s now living a completely different life somewhere else as Clint Taurus, I’m not going to find him. Taking over someone elses identity, living or dead, isn’t a viable plan in the 21st century.


Let’s not provide detailed advice on how to break the law or forge documents.

General Questions Moderator

If someone was really dedicated to disappearing, would the best course of action to go overseas, renounce their United States citizenship, and then proceed to a country that would be more lax in providing ID documents?