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So You Want Out . . . What Are You Going To Do and Where Do You Want To Do It?
If you have come to the big decision that you want out of your old life and into a new one, you now have many more decisions ahead of you. Perhaps the most basic one is this: Do you want to stay in the United States or do you want to flee to another country? You don't have to answer that one just yet. In fact, you may want to read this entire book before you decide, one way or the other, which decision is best for you.
My own biases in this matter will perhaps become apparent as you read on. For many reasons, I think a person stands a better chance of success at creating a new life by moving out of the country altogether. Much of this book is geared towards doing just that. Even so, I realize that many people, for many reasons, may want to stay in the U.S. So we'll discuss this option first--including its perils and pitfalls--and then we'll talk a little bit about the alternative: expatriation.
The Long Arm Of The Credit Bureaus
Within the boundaries of the United States, it's very easy to move anywhere without setting off any alarms and whistles in the government itself. While government agencies maintain vast databases of information, they are not particularly well equipped (or motivated) to track the majority of the information contained in these databases. When they do, they usually move very slowly. The IRS charts you by your tax return, which is filed yearly, and the Social Security Administration by your employer payroll, filed quarterly and the police by your driver's license, renewed whenever the state gets around to it.
The only way they narrow inon you is if you get a speeding ticket, a DWI, or are arrested for ringing someone's bell. Now, if they have good reason to target you, it's a different story. Uncle Sam has his way to track your foreign travel, your financial transactions (over $3000) and your public record filings around the country. Oh, so you never heard of FinCen? FinCen is the Financial Crime Enforcement Network, a semi-secret division of the U.S. Treasury.
Unfortunately, this is not true of the massive credit bureaus and collection agencies. They track every single transaction you make: your credit card purchases, loans, payments on insurance policies, mortgages, car loans, credit applications, voter registration, bank accounts, and driving records. They even keep track of your new car purchases and leases, so they know when you are ready for a new car. (You've gotten those discount coupons for a new car, haven't you? They arrive right on schedule, exactly two years after your last new auto purchase.)
The credit bureaus buy tons of information from Uncle Sam that the government won't sell to you and me. We can no longer go to the post office and obtain someone's change of address information for a dollar, as we could several years ago. This information is, however, sold daily to the major credit bureaus like TRW (now Experian), TransUnion, and Equifax, and merged into skip tracing and locator databases called Missing Links, Discover, People Finder, Sleuth, Tracker, and Wizard. Where does it go after that? It is resold to marketing agencies, government and private investigators, collection agencies, and skip tracers that want to "reach out and touch someone" like you or me.
Let's face it: In this country it's far more difficult to hide from the credit bureaus, private investigators, information brokers, and collection agencies than it is from the city, county, state, and federal governments. The federal government recognizes this, and is now outsourcing and subcontracting many of its locator, background investigation, and asset searching functions to the investigative arms of the huge credit bureaus, and also to private investigators specializing in such work. For example, the IRS has now hired collection agencies to find and collect the millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and student school loans, which it has been heretofore ineffective at collecting.
In later chapters, we'll discuss some of the different agencies and the ways they can and do use information against you. (In particular, see Chapter 7, "How the Pros Will Look for You".)
For now, suffice to say: You can run, but it's getting harder and harder to hide, especially in the computerized society in the USA.
Slipping Through The Cracks
Despite the intrusiveness of the credit agencies, it is still possible to "slip through the cracks." But it may take some major re-shuffling of your spending habits and lifestyle. If you intend to hide within the United States, here are three basic rules to remember:
- Cut up all of your plastic. Pay cash for all of your daily, weekly, and monthly purchases.
- Close your bank account. (C'mon, you don't really need a checking account.) The infamous Meyer Lansky, financial wizard of organized crime, did have a checking account--but he only wrote one check a year off of the account, and that was to the Infernal Revenue Service, for his tax return. (I should know. I'm the guy who collected it from him.) Your bank account, especially if it is of the interest-bearing kind, is a government snitch. Every year, your bank faithfully reports your interest, by social security number, to Uncle Sam. The IRS and a few other nosy agencies calculate the amount of money needed to make that interest and compares it against your last tax return that would indicate any major increase in your net worth. If new accounts suddenly appear or the amount of interest rises substantially, your chances of becoming a target rise substantially.
- Keep your real name out of the public records. This includes driver's license, auto registration, marriage license bureaus, property ownership, voter registration records, business filings such as corporate officers, UCC borrowing documents and other local and national registrations. (See Chapter 4 for information on how to create a new identity.)