Here's How to Fake Your Own Death

But be warned, 'pseudocide' is not easy
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2019 3:00 PM CDT
Why It's Really Hard to Fake Your Own Death
File photo.   (Getty Images)

Faking your own death seems easy, right? Just ride a kayak off the coast of Mexico, swim away, and let authorities say you drowned. But Isabelle Kohn—whose family friend tried that very technique in 1996—explains in Mel Magazine that "pseudocide" gets a lot harder when insurance companies hire investigators to scour the Earth for you. "If I'm looking for someone and their spouse keeps getting a collect call from Geneva every Tuesday, I wanna know who’s on the end of that phone," says Frank Ahearn, a skip tracer (or unlicensed investigator). "That's one of the biggest mistakes I see people make: They try to contact their loved ones." He's also seen death fakers receive huge wire sums from loved ones, parade around on social media, get arrested, use names too much like their own, and leave their cell phone on at the wrong moment.

Pseudocide dates back at least to the 14th century—when a nun faked her death to flee a convent, per the Guardian—and grew in popularity with the rise of life insurance in the 19th century. People do it for other reasons too, like fleeing an abuser, hating who they've become, or ducking jail time, a court date, or alimony payments. But to pull it off, you have to avoid everyone you know, abandon your pets, get paid off the books, forget about using your college degree, and even give up hobbies. One New York PI says he found a faker by stalking coin shows until he spotting the guy, a coin collector. As for Kohn's family friend, he was caught at an airport with forged documents. "They aren't always criminal masterminds," says a pseudocide expert. And according to Kohn, you have to be. Click for her full article. (More fraud stories.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.