Off The Grid

This post goes via a few tangents to get where it’s going, but it does get there in the end, I promise.

I am a shameless devourer of gossip. I like to make up stories and kind of love a good conspiracy theory.

No doubt anyone who’s read any kind of news the last week has heard that Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise. There is a particular blog that I adore reading, Crazy Days and Nights, and last week I filled my spare time (ok and some work time) reading about how crazy Scientology is. Some of the reader comments directed me to various websites with all sorts of stories about how ex-members are stalked, have to change phone numbers, move house, etc, basically they need to disappear completely to avoid the people following them. It makes for some absolutely fascinating reading.

Then this morning I opened a horrific letter informing me that as it was on record that my husband and I purchased property on the same day as my in-laws on the same street, as we are related the stamp duty on the property must be the combined amounts of both properties instead of our individual properties. I have to fork out several thousand dollars to the revenue department because my in-laws and I all work together so it was convenient to sign the contracts the same day since we share the same solicitor and bank manager? That’s messed up. Without sounding like a complete loon, some days I think those anti-government conspiracy nuts have the right idea.

After both of these events I’ve gotten to thinking exactly how difficult it would be in this day and age to truly live “off the grid”.  Everything is electronic and if it’s electronic, it’s trackable. Bank records, phone records, medical records, personal ID data, IP addresses, emails, social networking.

My personal belief is that it would take immense preparation for the average person to just remove themselves from society.

You would either have to rent a house under a fake name, which is ridiculously hard to do if you don’t have access to a top rate forger, or go and live in the bush somewhere. But before you could go out bush you would need to have somewhere to live and presumably if you’re paranoid you would build it yourself – but materials, transport and solar power are expensive and you would likely need help.

Getting money would be problematic, unless you’re content to grow your own food in the bush and never venture off the land you’re squatting on. You would have to make do picking fruit or taking whatever limited cash jobs come your way.

To contact people you would need to use public telephones (provided you can find any that still exist) or internet cafes and make sure you aren’t caught on security cameras.

Travelling would be difficult as cars are expensive to fuel and need to be registered. Stolen cars attract attention. Air travel is off the books completely as it’s impossible to pay without using a credit card or a bank account – unless a travel agent will accept cash but they might still ask for ID when paying for it. The advent of web check-in often means airline staff don’t ask for ID when you check in, provided you set up your fake email.  But you can’t leave the country without a passport and I have no idea how to get a fake one, I don’t run in those kinds of circles.

I just can’t see a way it could possibly work without preparation and serious forethought. You wouldn’t be able to just up and run.

But I do think it would make a good story. It’s all very well for people like Jason Bourne to do things like that, but what about your average Joe?

How would you disappear if someone was after you?

4 thoughts on “Off The Grid

  1. It’s easier than you think, actually. All you need is a fake birth certificate, and to get one of those, you goto the public records office and purchase one of a baby that was born dead. Take their name, and you’re off to the races. You can get everything else with that; driver’s license, passport, etc.

    Of course, I’ve always believed in hiding in plain sight. Simply move to another city, and don’t leave a forwarding address. My name is so common that there are two of me that live in this city. I’ve told bill collectors that they’ve got the wrong me, and to call the other one.

    Not that I’ve thought about any of this stuff 😉

    • Haha, of course not, who does? 😉

      In Australia though, it’s not quite as easy to do that – when we apply to get a copy of a birth certificate from the Dept of Justice, we need to submit proof of eligibility to apply on the basis of being the parent, relative, legal guardian or executor of an estate of the person and have show proof of your identity – so there’s always going to be a link back to you. I couldn’t get my daughter’s birth certificate until I’d showed them 100 points of ID to prove I was who I said I was on the application form.

      And sadly my name is probably the only one of it’s kind in the world, or so Google tells me anyway, since all the results are actually about me.

      I’d love to give it a go as an experiment one day though, just to see what it’s really like. I’m odd 🙂

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