CHAPTER I — ASSESSMENT AND FIRST STRATEGIES
ASSESSMENT – FIRST STRATEGIES
It’s important to begin with an assessment of your current “privacy situation” before we begin looking at the list of strategies. Keep in mind that many of my clients would not appreciate me publishing every single secret and strategy that they are using from my system; however, this book should be sufficient to get you a high level of privacy without jeopardizing the best secrets.
Request a free copy of your credit report and make a list of every business to which you’ve given your identifying information, both online and local. This would include applications for membership, credit, etc. To help you with an example, doctors, medical and health care services, coupon clubs, grocery stores, retail businesses, banks, utility services, government agencies, licensing offices, tax collectors, home owners associations or neighborhood groups, and social networking websites. The list should identify the name of the business and what information was disclosed. And for the most important part, and this may require a bit of work, with the information you will need to know the specific terms under which these disclosures were made. The terms should be in writing, should have an expiration date, record destruction and third party disclosure provisions along with penalties for violations and identify applicable state and federal laws. You can probably refer to this as a written policy or part of an agreement, but it’s traditionally referred to as a “Document Retention Policy”.
What happens if you cannot obtain a copy of this document retention policy? If you cannot obtain one, either online at the organization’s website, or in person or via mail, then there is no policy for the retention of documents that contain your personal identifying information. You should immediately send a written notice to the legal counsel for the organization and provide a list of terms under which they may retain your personal identifying information and a statement that if they do not agree, they will purge their records with your information and return all documents to you, or destroy such documents within a reasonable time and provide proof of their destruction to you. Your notice should also include penalty provisions that make the organization liable for any damages you might suffer due to the misuse or unauthorized use of your personal identifying information.
Your notice should give a time limit within which to reply in writing and be sent both by first class mail and certified mail. Mail to the general counsel for the organization, or if you know the custodian of the records, to that individual or employee.
For those organizations that provide you with a document retention policy, read it carefully. If you don’t understand it, ask for clarification in writing from the individual responsible for implementing the policy.
Next, this book will show you the basic steps of creating a “persona” using Internet technology. You can use this or you can get started the traditional way, by creating a way to receive mail under a fictitious name. Don’t change any of your current mail habits right now, except to reduce the types of mail you receive by replacing certain mail with email, such as monthly bills.
Find a local mail box location, such as the UPS Store or Pak Mail, etc. Get the smallest box, no matter how much mail you expect. Remember, there will always be an added cost with taking back your privacy, you’ll learn to budget for that later. There are some necessary costs and some unnecessary. This is one of the necessary, although there are
Less Costly Alternatives. Most of these mail receiving services (they are known as Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies, CMRA) will require you to complete a USPS Postal Form 1583. You can find this on the Internet very easily. You should print one at home and complete it first before you actually go to open the mailbox service. The local postal inspector will request these documents from the CMRA periodically and if the service doesn’t have one for every customer, they will have to pay a penalty or could lose their CMRA status entirely. You will find some that don’t comply very well with the 1583, especially requiring you to have it updated annually, I prefer those and I prefer the ones that don’t ask for one at all, if you can find one.
The 1583 requires that you, the box holder, identify yourself with a government issued documents, such as a driver license, passport, etc. The acceptable forms of identification are disclosed with the form. Again, if you can get the service to accept your 1583 without identification, then do it. The goal here is not to open a mailbox in a name other than what appears on your legal documents, but to receive mail in a fictitious name instead. I am a strong proponent of not using my actual home address on this form, but instead, using a valid postal address. You can find one quickly online via whitepages.com. Search for an address in the county or town where you are opening the mailbox and use the valid postal address you found at random, on the form. Who is to say that the day your box is opened, you didn’t move to another location? This is why I titled my work “PrivacyWorks, if you have the stomach for it”.
The 1583 has a section that asks what fictitious name you want to use. Can you believe that? This is a government form. This is where you want to choose a fictitious name, and it doesn’t have to be registered with the state nor published in the newspaper. You are doing this for your own personal safety and security and unless someone else wants to guarantee this for you, then they cannot prohibit you from using an unregistered fictitious name. Remember, you are not your name, just like you are not your mailing address. Just because your legal name is Mary Smith, does not mean you have to receive your mail in that name. You can receive it in the name if “Darrel Johnson”. I encourage you to use your imagination at this point, remember that your goal is personal safety and security, for yourself and your family. Other members of your family can use the same exact name and address for receiving their mail, there is no reason to receive mail in additional names when everyone lives at the same address or nearby.
You can take this to another level by opening a post office box, the fictitious name being optional at this point; however, I like the idea of using the same fictitious name as on the mailbox service. The post office will also ask you for another 1583, you can duplicate the first one. Why? This way you can have your mail forwarded to the post office box periodically, so that only the mailbox service has your post office box address. Do not give anyone this post office box address, it’s only for the mail box service.
You will see more uses for this later, but maybe you want to have your mailbox in another county, or even another state. This is just one reason, you will soon discover more, but let’s just say, it’s a good first step.
Next, you want to register a limited liability company. New Mexico is a preferred jurisdiction, but any will suffice, the consideration here is price, the filing fee (tax). Pay whatever you are comfortable with, but remember that each jurisdiction has the same privacy no matter what disclosure requirements it has. You can register your corporation using the fictitious name you chose for the mailbox. See how this comes together kind of nicely?
Once you have the file number from the secretary of state, you have your corporation and then you can visit the IRS’s website to obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in about ten minutes. You do not always need an EIN just because you are using a corporation, but I’m going to have you open a bank account and the bank will require one. The online EIN application requires the applicant to disclose his/her or its taxpayer identification number. You can use the EIN of another corporation, or your social security number as the applicant. This does not create any privacy concerns or any liability problems, so you can feel free to use your own social security number. There will be no surprise tax consequences of any kind, because of the EIN application. The form will not let you obtain an EIN online if the applicant’s EIN was obtained online, so if you want to use that applicant, you can do it the old school way, paper form via mail or call, it just takes longer.
Regarding your telephone number. There are many ways to approach this, but I’m going to keep it very simple for now. Get a Google Voice number and redirect it to your real telephone number. You might want to change your number by telling the service provider that you are receiving too many unwanted or threatening calls and the service should do this once for you at no cost. Do not give out this number to anyone, instead, give everyone the google-voice number. You’ll have to use your own discretion at this point. At some point I can introduce you to some new technology, somewhat like you’d expect if you were 007 himself.
Use Intelius, www.anywho.com/ or various Internet data collection services to associate your google-voice number with either your real name or your fictitious name. Now don’t be confused here, I say it this way because it just depends on what you want to accomplish. If you associate your legal name with this google-voice number, it may connect other legal or public records to that and possibly your mailbox address. Maybe you want to associate only your real or commonly known first name and a fictitious last name to that telephone number instead.
Don’t be stressed that you have too many options, remember that anything you do at this point is probably dramatically improved for the “privacy situation” you had last year. And even for myself, I find that I need to change different factors around at least every year, so it is a regular process of maintenance, somewhat like gardening. If you are diligent, it becomes an easy part of your life and serves you well.
You can receive mail in your legal name at the mail box address, no worries there. And you’ll want to do this for legal documents, such as licenses. Change the address as it appears on your license (if it’s your home address) to your new mailbox address. Do the same for voting records, and any other records that are important to you.
Find a bank that you prefer and open a bank account for the new limited liability company (LLC) you just created. The bank will tell you what documents it needs in order to open the account, those are very easy to collect or you probably already have what you need and the bank will probably ask for $100 opening deposit. And yes, you will want the corporation name to be something other than your other names, fictitious names, etc. Let’s say you register your company in New Mexico and call it Alabama Partners, LLC. You will want that corporation to be able to receive payments and deposits in the corporate name, but also in the same fictitious name as for your mail box service. Now for this, the bank may want to see either a fictitious name registration certificate in the state where you are opening the account, or proof of publication, such as in three editions of the local business journal. I prefer publishing in the business journal over registering with the state. Once this is done, test it out by depositing several payments via money order made payable to the corporation and exclusively in the fictitious name to confirm that the bank will process the payments without any problems. Don’t deposit tens of thousands of dollars at first, but just something close to $100, 2 or 3 times.
This is going to provide the core of everything else you do as you achieve greater levels of privacy, but I need to add one more. It is important to your personal security as well as your privacy that you replace your home address appearing on your driver license with the mailbox address you set up following these procedures. Remember that this mailing address can also receive mail in your legal name, not that you will receive lots of mail from the motor vehicle division, but you might eventually receive your annual tax registration form or renewal notices. Then, stop using your driver license for identification except for traffic stops. This is another good reason to obtain at least a domestic passport as I explain later. And for the same reasons, if you are using a GPS device in your car, be sure it does not have your home address anywhere in the database or address list. Replace your home address with a nearby, well known, retail business location. If someone steals your car or wallet, they won’t be able to also discover where you live.