Read an Excerpt
HOW THIS BOOK CAN MAKE YOU INVISIBLE
One day you can be on the top of the world; the next day you can be in hell. One of Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur cartoon strips is titled “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:
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—especially when you are served without a hint of advance warning. More than 1 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?
More than one reader has answered a knock on the door and went into shock at being greeted by reporters, photographers, and trucks with big satellite dishes outside of his or her home! 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?
The following are just a few of the many things that could bring the media, or worse, to your home:
• A bomb goes off, you were in the area, and the FBI thinks you fit the profile.
• An identity sketch of the person who robbed the convenience store at 11:45 p.m. last night is flashed on TV, and it looks just like you. And you don’t have a plausible excuse for that time that anyone’s going to believe.
• You were innocently involved with the wrong people and the 60 Minutes crew is within minutes of tracking you down.
• Someone faked your e-mail address when searching for sex with twelve-year-olds, and the police are at your door.
An article in Newsweek, titled “Getting the Wrong Man,” gives a chilling example of something that occurs more often than you might think.
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?
Incredulously, 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 of the accused crime, and the contents of your home or personal information are made public? Would anything on the following list—if found in your house—give you cause for concern?
• Excess cash?
• Guns and ammunition?
• The contents of your smartphone?
• All the e-mails you’ve ever sent or received?
• 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 every search you’ve ever made on Google?
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 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.
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, and 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 come up with your home address with a single phone call, and with a list of your assets the next day. Where this book can help you, 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 FOUR LEVELS OF PRIVACY
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.
Very basic, economical moves that will give you more privacy than 98 percent of the general population. The opposition might have to pay a private investigator several hundred dollars to track you down.
At this point your utilities, your smartphones, and your other electronic devices will be in alternate names. The license plates on your vehicles will not reveal your true name and address. Anything confidential will be shredded. The PI may now require $5,000 or more in order to track you down.
This will almost certainly require a move from your present location. Both your home (or rental property) and your vehicles will be in the names of anonymous limited liability companies (LLCs). Your home address will now be hidden from all but your closest relatives and friends. It will no longer appear on your annual tax returns, or anywhere else. If you follow the directions in chapter 12, “E-mail and the Internet,” your Internet/e-mail connections will be under cover and 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.
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.
All bridges will now be ashes, friends and relatives just a distant memory. You’ve cut all ties with clubs, hobbies, and church, 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 can call in air strikes, PIs can call in investigative reporters. These are the men who dig up celebrity skeletons for tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Globe, and—until Rupert Murdoch had to shut it down—the tabloid newspaper The Sun. Never underestimate an investigative reporter. These guys may sometimes go to jail—as in the Murdoch scandal—but until they do, they are 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—the choice of the majority of my readers.
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 may it be easier than you think, but it can be fun as well, and lead you to a more stress-free life.
* * *
Now let’s talk about four more levels:
THE FOUR LEVELS OF PURSUIT
The first three levels will normally be a private investigator hired by a law firm, a disgruntled stockholder, an ex-lover, an ex-employee, a stalker, a creditor, or any weirdo out for what he or she considers revenge.
The average small-city one-person PI. He (they are still usually male, though that is slowly changing) sits at his desk and runs whatever data he’s been given, using paid national and international databases, common Internet searches, and social media site searches. He may make phone calls to family and friends or church members if the client has provided that contact information. A PI in Tennessee once outlined his standard method of searching for assets:
The first thing I do when I search for hidden assets is pull the subject’s credit report. I look for credit cards, ATMs, etc., issued by banks. Some small banks like the ones you describe automatically issue these cards. You’d have to specifically tell them you don’t want them, otherwise they appear on your credit report and the bank is exposed.
If he doesn’t find you with that method, or in the phone book, he’ll usually give up. This type of PI is not normally ready to break any laws, and often makes less than $50,000 a year.
Sometimes works in gray areas. Is less risk-averse. Is more tenacious and better at networking with subcontractors and contacts inside anything from DMVs and cable companies to cell phone providers and sometimes even police departments. If you have property, vehicles, phones, cable TV, electricity, disposal service, professional or business licenses, or anything else in your name, run for cover!
They’ll find your employer, family and friends, religious and political affiliations, former school mates and professors. They’ll find and search through your financial records in any country. If the legal circumstances exist, they can obtain your school transcripts, or conduct surveillance using sophisticated equipment. They earn mid-to-high-five-figure incomes along the coasts.
Will subcontract the legal portions of an investigation to the Level Two PIs or to info-brokers. Will bend or break any law if the price is right (think Anthony Pellicano and Chris Butler). They will run credit reports, grab school transcripts and medical information, or search financial records without permission or permissible purpose.
They’ll bribe police, plant evidence, hire crooks for surreptitious entries and muggers who will take you down to check your wallet for ID, run brothels for information on their clients, and even hire lowlifes who will hold your feet to the fire to get the information they’ve been paid to collect. (Former government agents-turned-corporate espionage agents run in these circles.) Makes a high six-to-seven-figure income until caught.
Government agents from whatever nation. Sovereignty means nothing to these people (think Osama bin Laden). At this level, give up, jump off a high bridge, or go the route outlined in chapter 24. No life insurance company will insure you.
* * *
Sometimes, however, your worst enemy will turn out to be … YOU. That’s why the next subtitle is:
“WHOM SHALL I CONFIDE IN?”
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, who identified 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?” a friendly female voice asked.
“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 then phoned a different number at the bank. Pretending to be someone working in the wire room, he asked for the settlement number. They gave it to him, and he called the wire room back. The clerk 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! Then he returned to the United States.
Some say he had an ego problem, and couldn’t help showing the diamonds to his friends. Others say Rifkin tried to work with a friend to sell the diamonds. Whatever the case, someone told the FBI. They chased him, caught him, and he went to prison.
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 present day:
Do not reveal confidential information—and especially not your home address—to your attorney, CPA, banker, doctor, dentist, school authorities, relatives, family, friends, or anyone else unless you would trust them with your life.
WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT
This book is about how to keep your private life private. It is not about avoiding taxes or about protecting your assets from creditors, although the latter may be an added benefit. Nor is it a call to disobey the law. I consider myself a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of the world. True, I may not be accurate when called upon to give my home address, and I do confess that I am allergic to certain kinds of permits. You, then, make your own decision. (Although I’ve made privacy my business for more than fifty years, I am not a lawyer. So never take any questionable measure without the advice and counsel of a trained legal professional.)
For example, you may wish to operate a legitimate but anonymous business from your home. This means you may have to ignore the requirements for a business license and also the resale tax permit (assuming you live in a sales-tax state). The city will lose a small fee when you don’t pay for a license. On the other hand, the state will gain when you pay sales taxes for supplies that might otherwise be exempt. Other small pluses and minuses will enter in. Depending upon the community, there may or may not be any penalty if you are caught, other than catching up on some payment you failed to make. So then, please note:
If I mention any procedure, which I suspect might be construed as illegal in some states or provinces, I will warn you of that fact beforehand. My responsibility is to explain the options. Your responsibility is to make your own decisions.
WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK UNIQUE?
Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book Outliers: The Story of Success, repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule,” stating that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Since 1959, my studies in the field of privacy have surpassed that figure by far.
ALTERNATIVE TO DELAWARE AND NEVADA CORPORATIONS
I recommend a legal entity that, formed correctly, can almost certainly never be traced back to you.
NO RANTING OR RAVING
Well, a little ranting maybe, but unlike many other authors, no raving about government corruption, black helicopters, jack-booted thugs, or the Internal Revenue Service. This book is about Life in the Real World, not a treatise about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or Common Law.
UP-TO-DATE ADVICE FOR THE PRESENT TIME
Although no book can be completely up to the minute, since laws and procedures are constantly changing, I maintain both a Web site (howtobeinvisible.com) and a blog (blog.invisible-privacy.com), to keep readers up to date. Go there for the latest information about personal and business privacy. Be sure to sign up for the news via e-mails, as well.
Most books on privacy—including the previous editions of this book—have been written specifically for Americans. The reason is that Americans are under more attacks for frivolous lawsuits, tracked by more PIs, targeted for more asset seizures by the Treasury Department, and jailed for more “Homeland Security” charges than any place else on the planet.
Compare the United States to other nations (figures are approximate):
Nevertheless, the entire world is now changing, and not for the better. I am currently getting visitors to my Web site from more than seventy countries and territories—something I would not have imagined even two or three years ago. For that reason I have included chapter 27: “International Privacy 101.”
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Each chapter provides you with basic, step-by-step information. Although I suggest you read the chapters in order, you may decide to skip some that you feel do not apply to you. However—
Do not skip the next chapter.
Your journey to invisibility must begin with the first step: separating your name from your home address.
Copyright © 2012 by Editorial de Las Islas LC