How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life

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Sweeping changes since 9/11 have encroached upon personal privacy as never before. This new edition of J. J. Luna's classic manual covers everything from driver's licenses and pizza deliveries to anonymous ownership of vehicles and real estate. From Cyberspace to Crawl Spaces, innovations in information gathering have left the private life of the average person open to scrutiny and, worse, exploitation. In this thoroughly revised update of his immensely popular guide How to Be Invisible, J. J. Luna shows you how ...
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How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life

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Sweeping changes since 9/11 have encroached upon personal privacy as never before. This new edition of J. J. Luna's classic manual covers everything from driver's licenses and pizza deliveries to anonymous ownership of vehicles and real estate. From Cyberspace to Crawl Spaces, innovations in information gathering have left the private life of the average person open to scrutiny and, worse, exploitation. In this thoroughly revised update of his immensely popular guide How to Be Invisible, J. J. Luna shows you how to protect yourself from these information predators by securing your vehicle and real estate ownership, your bank accounts, your business dealings, your computer files, your home address, and more.

J. J. Luna, a highly trained and experienced security consultant, shows you how to achieve the privacy you crave and deserve, whether you just want to shield yourself from casual scrutiny or take your life savings with you and disappear without a trace. Whatever your needs, Luna reveals the shocking secrets of private detectives and other seekers of personal information and then shows how to make a serious commitment to safeguarding yourself.

There is a prevailing sense in our society that true privacy is a thing of the past. Filled with vivid real-life stories drawn from the headlines and from Luna's own consulting experience, How to Be Invisible, Revised Edition is a critical antidote to the privacy concerns that continue only to grow in magnitude as new and more efficient ways of undermining our personal security are made available. Privacy is a commonly lamented casualty of the Information Age and of the world's changing climate -- but that doesn't mean you have to stand for it.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A subversive, disturbing, and altogether remarkable exposure of our frightening transparency to government agencies, investigators, the media, and more malign forces. Luna, a security consultant who "spent 11 years running a secret operation in Franco's Spain" (presumably outwitting the state police), begins by presenting formidable evidence of the demolition of personal privacy in the information age, as well as a chilling hypothetical selection of ways in which this state of affairs can ruin the existence of Joe & Jane Citizen (from false criminal accusations to stalking to lawsuits). His wryly presented conclusion—that advanced privacy measures are "flood insurance"—are borne out through the clear-headed instructional chapters that follow. First he shows how to protect one's physical space: how to construct an alternative mail-drop and "ghost" address, how to keep your real domicile unknown, and how to avoid using one's social-security number and birthdate for identification purposes. Although his suggestions seem surprisingly simple, he offers stern disclaimers to consult legal professionals. Further chapters delve deeply into the complicated netherworld of trusts, limited-liability companies, personal nominees, secret home businesses, anonymous travel, hidden ownership of vehicles and real estate, and so forth. One cannot but note that such information, although certainly invaluable to people in particular demographics (such as undercover cops or abused women, who might well need to "disappear"), is most often utilized by a new breed of transnational organized crime (with examples evident from Nick Leeson to the Russian Mafia). Yet Luna—whoseslightlyornate prose suggests Nero Wolfe after several Belgian ales—makes a bracing, serious argument for the aggressive defense of one's informational and asset privacy, acidly noting throughout how governmental entities constantly attempt to seal the doors of invisibility, as in their harrassment of mail-receiving services. This is a memorable work which should be considered by many and undoubtedly will be acted upon by some.
From the Publisher
"J. J. Luna gives the smartest, sanest, and most practical advice on just how to stay out of sight in the real world. Buy this book if you value your privacy."—Ned Beaumont, author of Beat the Border and The Policeman Is Your Friend and Other Lies

"Read this meticulously researched and highly entertaining book, learn its techniques...then vanish in plain sight!"—Lieutenant Patrick Picciarelli, NYPD (ret.), bestselling author of Jimmy the Wags: Street Stories of a Private Eye

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312319069
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Edition description: Revised Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 5.82 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

J. J. Luna spent eleven years running a secret operation in Franco's Spain, a fascist state notorious for the brutality and tenacity of its secret police. His skill at covering his tracks has saved his life several times. He now works as a consultant, helping other people— and their assets— to simply...disappear.

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Read an Excerpt




Governments keep a lot of secrets from their people . . . Why aren’t the people in return allowed to keep secrets from the government?


Sometimes life has a way of appearing as nothing more than a string of minor and major disasters, a series of challenges that, when considered in their totality, can overwhelm even the most levelheaded of individuals. In fact, it’s only prudent to prepare for the worst that life has to offer: thus, life insurance, home insurance, extra batteries, security systems, dead bolts, a little fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and on and on. However, there’s one glaring omission in most people’s planning, one gap in their vigilance which is potentially more devastating than if they went through life smoking in bed, shampooing with gasoline, and taking out-of-date aspirin. And this omission is their personal and financial privacy.

So think of this book as flood insurance. If the river near you has not yet started to rise, I can show you how to move to higher ground. If the river is already rising, I hope at least to show you how to build a raft. And just because the river has never flooded before does not mean it will never flood in the future. Unexpected torrential downpours can come in many forms.


In Europe, rapes and murders are just a fraction of the number committed in the United States. No nation on earth has more guns per capita, and few if any have a larger percentage of the population in prison. Besides the muggers, the robbers, and the serial killers, you may suddenly be confronted by:

• An irate neighbor, a fellow worker, or a disgruntled client.

• An ex-spouse, an ex-lover, or an ex-employee.

• In-laws, outlaws, or someone mentally deranged.

• A kidnapper, a burglar, or a con man.


The mental damage from worry and fear can be even more devastating than a physical attack. This may come from:

• Stalkers, investigators, or anonymous phone calls in the night.

• Telephone conversations secretly taped, then passed around . . .

• “Confidential” medical records released to your employer, your clients, or your insurance company. These records might divulge mental problems, impotence, abortion, alcohol/drug abuse, a sexual disease, or [fill in the blanks].


Make a random list of twenty people you know. On the average, six of them have already been sued, or will be in the future. Lawsuits are not filed only because of accidents, negligence, separations, divorces, or contract disputes. In the United States, anyone can sue anyone else.

One of Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur cartoon strips is entitled LEGAL MUGGING. It shows a businessman on the sidewalk of a dark street with his hands in the air. A sign on a post reads “CAUTION: Watch for trial attorneys.” Stepping from a narrow alley is a lawyer wearing a stocking cap, dark glasses, and holding out a legal document.

“This is a frivolous lawsuit,” says the attorney to his victim. “You can either spend years and thousands of dollars defending yourself, or we can settle out of court right now.”

Although this was in a comic strip, what it portrays is not comical. More than one million lawsuits are filed each year in this country. How many of those do you think are frivolous, but are nevertheless settled out of court? Thousands of private investigators would be out of work tomorrow if lawyers stopped employing them to find out who has “deep pockets,” that is—who has enough money to make a lawsuit worthwhile.

By putting into practice what you will learn in the pages to follow, you may well be able to shield yourself from lawsuits and the resulting financial harm.


You peek out your window. Look! Reporters, photographers, and trucks with big satellite dishes! If you think this cannot happen to you, then kindly allow me to give you a homework assignment. From this day forward, when you read your newspaper or watch the news on TV, start searching for cases where an unknown person is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. Then ask yourself, Could this possibly happen to me?

Here are just a few of the many things that could bring the media, or worse, to your home address:

• A bomb goes off, you were in the area, the FBI thinks you fit the profile . . .

• You win the lottery. (More tears have been shed over winning a lottery than not winning one.)

• An Ident-a-Sketch of the person who robbed the convenience store at 11:45 last night is flashed on TV, and it looks just like you! And you don’t have a plausible alibi for that time that anyone’s going to believe.

• You were innocently involved with the wrong people and the 60 Minutes crew has just tracked you down.

• Someone faked your e-mail address when searching for “young virgins” on the Internet and the postal inspectors (yes, the Net is now in their jurisdiction) are about to confiscate your computer.

Do not for a moment think that the information to follow is of mere academic interest—it maybe useful beyond your wildest imagination. A recent article in Newsweek, titled “Getting the Wrong Man,” gives a chilling example of something that occurs more often than we care to think about.

“Tom Kennedy found the body of his wife, Irene, who had been strangled and stabbed 29 times while on her daily stroll through a park in the Boston suburb of Walpole. Then, a few hours later, the police called at a nearby dilapidated bungalow where Eddie Burke, a 48-year-old handyman, lived with his mother . . . He was practically a textbook match for police profilers: a loner who knew the victim and was clearly eccentric.”

[What on earth does “eccentric” mean? My best friends—with a smile—call me eccentric. Do I, therefore, fit a certain profile?]

“Burke was visibly nervous and gave contradictory answers when questioned by investigators.”

[Wouldn’t you be nervous, too?]

“There was blood on his clothes and hands. And forensic dentists would soon match his teeth with bite marks left on Mrs. Kennedy’s breast.”

Burke was arrested for murder. Within twenty-four hours, the police learned that the DNA from the saliva on Mrs. Kennedy’s chest could not have come from Burke. Did they then release him?

“Incredibly, they ran more tests, which again exonerated him. In addition, blood found on Burke turned out to be feline; he had been tending to injured cats. A palm print left on Mrs. Kennedy’s thigh didn’t match Burke’s hand, while the bite-mark evidence proved inconclusive . . . Yet for six weeks, police kept insisting they had the right man in jail . . . While he was locked away, Burke’s life was put under a microscope. He was demonized in newspapers and on TV, each story accompanied by a menacing courtroom image of Burke. The sociopathic profiles were fueled by details of his home’s contents—X-rated videotapes, kitchen knives, the book Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. They didn’t mention the three Bibles in my room,’ Burke says. ‘They could just as easily said I was a religious fanatic.’ ”

The police claim they followed a logical course and “had the backing of reputed scientific experts.” Let us assume that is correct. The point is that even though Burke was the wrong man, the contents of his house were published by the media.

Suppose you are suddenly arrested, even though innocent, and the contents of your home are made public? Would anything on the following list—if found in your house—give you cause for concern?

• Excess cash.

• Guns and ammunition.

• Telephone records of all long-distance calls.

• Books, magazines, brochures, correspondence.

• Empty whiskey bottles or evidence of substance abuse.

• Statements from your bank, your broker, your credit-card company.

• The contents on your computer’s hard drive, including so-called deleted files, along with a list of sites you once entered on the World Wide Web.

If the police are after you, whether you are guilty or not, what is your first priority? Is it not time?

You need time to think, time to get certain items out of the house, time to locate your attorney, or—heaven forbid—time to pick up some cash, arrange transportation, and flee. This book is designed to give you that time, and to help you keep your private information private.

Before we continue, let me say that if someone with unlimited funds is after you, you will eventually be found. If you doubt this, contact a competent (repeat: competent) private investigator and say, “I wish to disappear so completely that even you couldn’t find me. Can you help me?” The six-word answer will be, “No, because I can find anyone!”

And I agree. Repeatedly, private investigators (PIs) make this point in their books, articles, and personal interviews. And if the police are truly after you, their record isn’t bad either. Captain Robert L. Snow, a police officer for more than twenty-five years, says in his book Protecting Your Life, Home, and Property that the Indianapolis Police Department finds 98 or 99 percent of all persons reported to them as missing.

But in the private investigator section of my home library, I find no PIs anywhere who will admit defeat under any circumstances, as long as payment is forthcoming. The closest I can come to a failure is a certain PI who says he successfully tracked down 298 of the 299 targets he was given over his lifetime. As for the one he missed, he eventually concluded that he was given false information, that no such person ever existed.

The fuel that runs a private investigator’s engine is M-O-N-E-Y. In your present situation, a PI may discover your home address with a single phone call, and come up with a list of your assets the next day. The purpose of this book, then, is to:

1. Plug the immediate loopholes in your security.

2. Put you on guard, before you ever again give out your Social Security number, home address, or correct date of birth, to anyone other than a government agency.

3. Make it so expensive to trace you and/or your assets that the bad guys or gals will give up before achieving their goals.

The direct correlation between money and results cannot be overemphasized. In the sections to come, I’ll be referring to various levels of security, with a general outline as follows. However, there may be no clear-cut divisions between one level and the next—it depends on who is after you, why, and the price he or she is willing to pay.

Level One: Very basic, economical moves that will give you more privacy than 98 percent of the general population. Your telephone will be unlisted and your mailing address will not be connected in any way to where you actually live. The opposition might have to pay a private investigator several hundred dollars to track you down.

Level Two: At this point your utilities and your telephone will be in alternate names. The license plates on your vehicles will not reveal your name or true address. Your trash will be shredded. The PI may now charge several thousand dollars to track you down.

Level Three: Welcome to my Level! You and your family have now taken some serious privacy measures. Your home (or rental property) will be in the name of a trust. Each vehicle will be in the name of a limited-liability company. No bank account nor business activity can be traced back to you. When you travel, you will register at motels using an alternate name. The black-hat boys and/or the law firms may have to pay a PI some truly serious money to track you down. Are you worth that much to them? If not, sleep well.

Level Four: At this level you are duplicating the federal Witness Security Program (incorrectly called the Witness “Protection” Program in the media) for criminals protected by the U.S. government. When the Feds do it for a felon, it’s legal. When you do it for yourself, it’s illegal. Your bridges are now ashes, your friends and relatives just a distant memory. You’ve canceled all magazine and newsletter subscriptions, cut all ties with clubs, hobbies, and religion, no longer file tax returns, and will never again work for an employer. You may feel this is necessary if there’s a bounty on your head or a contract on your life, but at this point, is life still worth living?

If so, keep running, because you can still be found. The PI, however, must now have unlimited funds at his disposal, and will call for help. Just as pinned-down soldiers on a battlefield call in air strikes, PIs call in investigative reporters. These are the men who dig up celebrity skeletons for tabloids such as the National Enquirer, the Globe, and the Star. Don’t underestimate them. These guys are good—the best in the business.

I recommend you start working on Level One even before you finish reading this book. In the weeks and months to come, raise yourself to Level Two. After that, decide whether or not you wish to ease up to Level Three. It may look difficult at first, but countless others have done it, and so can you. Not only is it easier than you think, but it is fun as well, and leads to a more stress-free life.

However, you must first ask yourself the following question:


In 1978, a short, balding man named Stanley Mark Rifkin worked at the Security Pacific National Bank in Los Angeles. Security Pacific thought of him as a computer programmer but Rifkin thought of himself as a consummate thief.

On October 25 he entered the bank, crossed the lobby, and took the elevator up to the wire transfer room. From this room, hundreds of millions of dollars passed every day from Security Pacific through the Federal Reserve system and on to international banks. Rifkin, identifying himself as the bank’s computer consultant, was not challenged as he walked into the heavily guarded room. By interviewing one of the workers, he learned the routing instructions, transfer routines, and the day’s security code. Before he left, he memorized an employee access code from an information board on the wall. Later that day, posing as a branch manager, he called the wire room.

“This is Mike Hansen on International.”

“Okay, and the office number?” asked a friendly female voice.

“It’s 286.”

“And the code?”

“Code is 4739.”


Now came the moment Rifkin had been living for.

“The bank,” he said, speaking in a calm voice, “is Irving Trust in New York City. Payment is to Wozchod Bank, Zurich, Switzerland. The amount is ten million two hundred thousand even.”

“Okay, and what’s the interoffice settlement number?”

“Let me check. I’ll call you right back.” He phoned another number at the bank. Pretending to be calling from the wire room, he asked for the settlement number. They gave it to him, and he called the wire room again. The clerk then typed his order into the system. Rifkin had just pulled off one of the largest bank thefts in history. Before the day was out, he was high above the Atlantic, bound for Europe.

In Switzerland, he purchased 250,000 raw diamonds, weighing nearly four pounds. (Raw diamonds are easy to sell and cannot be traced.) At this point it appeared that Rifkin had pulled off the perfect crime. No one at Security Pacific even knew the money was gone! However there are conflicting stories as to what happened next.

Some say he had an ego problem, and couldn’t help showing the diamonds to his friends. Others say he bragged about the heist to his lawyer and “trusted friend,” assuming he was protected by the attorney-client privilege. Whatever the case, someone told the FBI. They chased him, they caught him, and he went to prison.

My original choice for a quote at the beginning of this section was from Poor Richard’s Almanac. There, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” Stanley should have followed Ben’s advice.

However, you and I have not stolen any money, nor are we on the run for murder, so there will be few if any instances where if three know our secret, two must be dead. I cite the Rifkin case not out of admiration for his cunning but as an example of stupidity.

Francis Beaumont, one of England’s most popular playwrights in the age of Shakespeare, had this to say about secrets: “All confidence which is not absolute and entire is dangerous. There are few occasions but where a man ought either to say all, or conceal all, for, how little ever you have revealed of your secret to a friend, you have already said too much if you think it not safe to make him privy to all particulars.”

Allow me to rephrase his comment, boiled down to plain language of the 2000s: Do not trust your attorney, CPA, private detective, banker, doctor, dentist, school authorities, relatives, family, friends, or anyone else unless you would trust them with your life.

Here is my own short list of who I do and do not trust:

• Family: I trust my wife. I always trusted my parents, but they are dead. I see no reason to confide confidential matters in our grown children, or in their spouses, nor in our grandchildren. I love my millionaire kid sister in Hollywood but do not tell her my secrets. (Sorry, Sis!)

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Table of Contents

Preface xi
1 How This Book Can Make You Invisible 3
2 U.S. Mail--Serious Dangers 20
3 When Is a "Lie" Not a Lie? 39
4 Mailboxes, Public and Private 47
5 How to Obtain Your Own "Ghost" Address 57
6 Repairmen, Home Deliveries, House Calls, FedEx, UPS 72
7 Untraceable Trash, Anonymous Utilities 83
8 Your Social Security Number and Date of Birth 90
9 Your Alternate Names and Signatures 110
10 Telephones and Answering Machines 121
11 Cell Phones and Pagers 140
12 Handheld Two-Way Radios 148
13 How to Find and Use Nominees 157
14 Bank Accounts and Money Transfers 161
15 Limited Liability Companies 173
16 Hidden Ownership of Vehicles and Real Estate 182
17 Personal Computers 197
18 E-Mail and the Internet 211
19 How to Secretly Run a Home-Based Business 232
20 Secret Spaces, Hidden Places 240
21 Cool Stuff That Did Not Fit In Earlier 248
22 An Exam, a Secret, and an Invitation 266
Glossary 275
Appendix 276
Index 279
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Very informative.

    This book offers excellent and, for the most part, practical advice for living a private and secluded lifestyle. References are always provided, and although the information is sometimes outdated (which is no surprise at all, given the fact that technology and laws seem to change every day), but none-the-less this is a very good reference book.

    The only thing I really didn't like about this book was the fact that in order to live a really private life, you have to move from your present home and begin again. This is not possible for someone in my situation, but I can fully understand how real privacy cannot be achieved without doing so. The damage has already been done and the groundwork already laid for someone like myself who has spent the biggest part of their life in the same home with the same address.

    If you plan on moving to a new home, or have the means to move to a different location, then this book is well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2006

    The Privacy BIBLE!

    This is an excellent book on privacy techniques. What I like about it is that JJ Luna discusses various levels of privacy, and I have found that the more privacy you want, the more time/effort you will have to go through to maintain it. He talks about how to go about receiving your mail, where to choose to live, how use the phone, how to pay people, and how to title assets more privately. I like this book because JJ Luna does not try to force a one size fits all agenda upon people, but lets the reader decide on what level of privacy is right for them. There are varying levels of privacy which can be obtained for each one, depending on your circumstances (e.g. family, job, etc). Of course, the more privacy you want, the more you will have to sacrifice, but most of these techniques are simple and won't take too much extra time out of your week. Another thing this book goes into is how to work in a more private fashion. There are varying degrees to this as well and to obtain the highest levels of privacy, JJ Luna ultimately suggests to become self-employed. He touches on some points on that as well, but if you want more on that, then also be sure to check out his other book called Work From Home At Any Age (ISBN 0976387239), which I also highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2004

    Up to date for 2005

    This is not only the best book on maintaining personal privacy, it is the ONLY book in the field where the author (at answers questions and/or updates his book every day including Sundays and holidays! He gives impelling reasons why you should never again ever receive mail, packages, or deliveries of any kind at your home address. For special needs, he indicates sources for private mail-forwarding services in Canada and Alaska. He also recommends LLCs for anonymous ownership of cars and real estate--recommendations which I have followed and have been very happy with. This book is an ideal gift for special occasions or any occasion at all.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2001

    How to Be Invisible

    I have over 30 books on privacy. Most list illegal ways--many of which don't work--as a way to privacy. Luna obviously writes from personal experience, stays legal most of the time, and has step-by-step instructions that anyone [even me] can follow. No other book even comes close.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2007

    great field manuel

    If you are tired of your nosey neighbor, if you want to give your bothersome relative the heev-ho, if all that crazy junk in your box is just irritating, then this field manual on the basics of invisibility is a great start for those of you seeking help. It is also good for those just seeking privacy away from prying eyes. Learn the use of the other name, how to set up those addresses, how to set up organizations to hide your stuff, protect yourself from internet scams, and id thieves, learn what to really do with that cell phone and pager. There are several levels for you to choose from so that you may gradually get yourself to that place where you feel comfortable. Of course nothing is full proof but if someone is snooping, depending on the level you're at, they'll have to really work for it before they get to those dead ends. This is a no brainer with very easy, clear instructions and great examples.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2004

    Great book for us paranoid folk

    This book highlights a number of ways to essentially disappear from society. Of course, I'm sure it's easier said than done but this book may just be the answer. In any case, this book offers insight into how your privacy can be violated and how to protect it from those who get paid to dig around in your personal life. I also recommend 'The Digital Umbrella: Technology's Attack on Personal Privacy in America' ISBN: ISBN: 1581124295

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2001

    This is the absolute BEST privacy book, BUY IT, Read it

    J. J. Luna has written the best book on the subject bar none. Forget offshore, forget crazy hair brained theorical ideas, and forget illegal schemes. Mr. Luna writes in an easy to read style in a book jammed packed with good ideas that arre legal and practical and highly usable right here in the good old USA. Your privacy may be the last right and its fading last in the computer age. Mr. Luna tells how and why to set up a 'ghost address', which protects your home location. He tells of the benefits of LLCs or Limited Liability Companies. He talks about the different levels of privacy, you may not want or need the highest level of privacy, but most people need some additional measures taken. There are just enough, or perhaps too many crazy, sick people in the world to threaten your privacy or your life. Without hesitation I recommend this book in the highest terms.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2000

    How to Be Invisible

    What I liked best was the the book is unusually complete. It covers such diverse topics as ghost addresses for delivery services; alternate Social Security numbers; hiding ownership via nominees, trusts and LLCs; anonymous money transfers; air travel; computers, e-mail and the Internet. Best of all is an extensive index which I use a great deal. This book has the ring of authenticity. I showed it to a PI who said he hopes none of his targets ('skips') ever read this book.

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    Posted May 30, 2014

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    Posted October 11, 2010

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    Posted November 24, 2010

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted November 18, 2011

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    Posted August 18, 2010

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    Posted February 15, 2011

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