Why might it be a good idea to maintain a little bit of privacy in our lives, especially when it comes to our financial dealings?
Financially, the World is made up of basically two types of people. Those who actually harvest, create or acquire wealth (The Producers) and those who use force or guile to steal this money (The Thieves).
Most of us work very hard to get the money we need for survival and to increase our standard of living. We expend our energy week after week, in producing this wealth for a full year.
But at the end of this year, we sometimes have very little to show for it, or even worse, are further in debt than we were at the beginning.
What happened here? You mean to tell me that I wasted a whole year of my blood, sweat and tears for nothing. Let me figure this out.
And I make $2500 a month. $2500 minus $1500 equals $1000 . . . and $1000 times 12 months equals $12,000. Hey, I should have an extra $12,000 in my savings account, rather than owing an extra $12,000. What the hail happened???
Well, besides the above being a rather simplified and not very realistic budget (which is why you need to carry a notepad and write down every single cent you ever spend-always and forever), this $12,000 is being stolen from us in some very sneaky ways.
Someone didn't break into your home and actually steal this money you had hidden under the mattress, but it was stolen from you, none-the-less.
Primarily, it is stolen by various members in our society (thieves) through the means of taxes, inflation, consumer debt and regulations. And the sad thing about this, is that most of it is so-called Legal. And there are whole armies of enforcers behind these laws who can do us physical harm or lock us up (no offense to the many truly good ones). And it is getting worse.
We'll save any discussion about the means we are being stolen from for your own research. There are realms of materials available if you care to dig deeply into their intricacies and any moral arguments about the right and wrong of it.
I, for one know that I work very hard for my money and want to keep as much of it for my own use as possible without having it stolen from me.
The advent of each new piece of technology is making it much easier for the thieves in our society to siphon our money and privacy away. And since 911 and the passage of the Patriot Acts, it has become even easier. Sure does make you wonder what we are being protected from sometimes.
Hidden cameras on every corner, massive databases containing our entire life histories, GPS locators in our vehicles and phones, RFID chips in every product we buy and in our National ID Cards, free access to our bank accounts and they can even track every website we ever visit, email we send or book we read. We truly are living in an Orwellian World.
But technology can be a two-edged sword. For every way that we are being tracked and intruded upon, we can find and apply counter-measures which will help us maintain a lower profile and hopefully keep more of this money which is rightfully ours.
We are quickly becoming a cashless society. Electronic data is the rule of the day. We can't even get our canceled checks back any more without paying a fee. And every transaction we make in this regard can be tracked, filed and classified. Convenient? Yes. Cheap? You betchya. Private? by no means.
And potentially, all of this information can be used against us at some future time. Used your credit card to purchase a gun? When gun confiscation time rolls around they'll know. Bought 2 cases of toilet paper, 10 boxes of shotgun shells, 4 cases of spam and 12 packages of ground beef ? Whoops, red flag goes up for stockpiling. Redistribution time comes and we know exactly where to go. Flew to Hong Kong on business, read some books on hydroponic gardening and bought a roll of plastic? Whoops-marijuana grower trying to launder some money. And the list will go on and on, once everything is tied together. They will have a profile for every 'illegal' scenario. And all for our own protection of course.
What are some simple ways which we can use to get around this profiling?
Well, currently we can still use cash or money orders when we want to buy things that we want to maintain private. Now of course if we become even more cashless, it will be a good idea to buy normal use products with your card or you may be flagged that way for not purchasing enough-they'll be asking what other sources you are using. And if you pay for large purchases in cash you may also get flagged for using too much. And once things get bad, it is possible that they will have cameras over every register and you will still have to have your ID scanned even when you do pay in cash.
What then? Well first of all, I suggest you continue you normal use patterns for everyday life. What you want to do is build a profile in the National Database which will show just a normal everyday working-class citizen struggling to make ends meet. Don't buy anything out of the ordinary, slightly illegal or even read anything which might draw attention to yourself. Don't live in a huge house. Don't drive a brand new car. Don't wear expensive jewelry and fancy clothes. Etc. This will be your public profile. Don't do anything which might draw extra attention to yourself (including writing inflamatory articles :)
For any transaction which you want to maintain private, we are going to have to turn to private sources or our own means. Even now, there is a huge underground economy and as times worsen, it is only going to increase. We are going to have to get involved in this economy and use it to its fullest, in order for any type of privacy in the near future.
And the time to do that is now!
Want to increase that food stockpile? Then learn simple ways to grow/raise your own and how to preserve it. Find that farmer or rancher who is willing to sell or trade you their harvest. Locate that nearest farmers market and get involved.
Want to increase your water supply? Have that well driller you became friends with come in and drill it without a permit, if privacy allows. Get that well dug by hand and pump it using alternative energy means to that gravity fed storage tank so you don't flag excessive energy consumption.
Looking for household appliances, jewelry, guns, metals, tools, clothes or just about any other items you may need? Start going to those yard-sales and private auctions.
Want to drive further than your gasoline allowance will allow? Get that diesel-powered vehicle now and learn how to make your own bio-diesel.
Need medical attention, but were flagged for your family history and weren't allowed insurance? Learn some basic medicine, store some basic supplies and become great friends with an over-regulated health-care provider.
Want to bypass the mandatory County roadblocks? Work at developing an alternative ID/cover/disguise which will allow you access.
Want to stockpile extra household cleaners and personal care items. Get some old formularies and the equipment and knowledge needed to do so now.
Need something repaired? Find that local handyman who works for cash.
Want that extra ammo? Learn how to reload your own or use and make blackpowder weaponry or other small survival weapons.
Need to travel to that secret cache? Leave your cell phone, vehicle and ID which all have the non-disabling GPS locators inside (and absolutely never have any RFIDs implanted or learn how to enable/disable them if you do-this is the future, I know, but think about it now).
Want to protect your wealth from inflation? Learn how to invest in the commodities you need for everyday life now, instead of later when the price increases (and do so in the underground economy to avoid any taxes).
Want to avoid paying excess taxes? Don't make too much income from your public profile job and find a great tax accountant who knows every legal loophole available. Live in a tax-free state. If you own your own business, incorporate and don't own the majority of stock in your name-just learn how to control it.
Afraid of lawsuits or judgements? Never, ever, own anything in your own name. Learn how to structure yourself (amply ahead of time) so that you control the property you need (there is much info about this around and I do not give legal advice).
And the list could go on and on. Whoever legally supplies a product or service can also be found in the underground economy. And it is going to be your job to learn who these people are, whom you can trust and use them to maintain any sort of privacy (or make these items yourself).
And how do you learn about the underground economy?
About the only way is through the grapevine. If you currently offer a product or service for cash, start exploring those barter deals now. Mechanic needs braces for his kids-explore the options of trading your Dentistry skills for his skills, if it seems right. Start going to those yard-sales, open markets and auctions and talking and getting to know the regulars. Visit those pawn and thrift shops on a weekly basis and get to know the owners. Strike up relationships with those handymen, farmers and one-person tradespeople. You'll be amazed at what may develop.
And also realize that if the need arises, just about any type of device which can be scanned, read or intercepted can be disabled in one way or another. Everything from bar codes to magnetic numbers on the bottom of your checks can be wiped clean of electronic data with very strong magnets. Radio transmitters may be able to be interfered with or destroyed with strong signals. Personal characteristic like finger/palm prints, iris detection and DNA can possibly be altered. (Not exactly sure how on some of this, but time will tell).
As we mentioned before, technology can be a 2-edged weapon for us.
There are currently a variety of cashless/electronic payment systems available for consumer use. And we, as privacy oriented individuals can learn how to take advantage of them for our benefit.
Paypal is one of the biggies (www.paypal.com) Basically it allows you to send or receive money from anyone with an email address. A very handy and convenient way of getting some money and moving it around electronically.
Is it private? No. Anytime someone with enough power and interest wants to take a look they will be able to. And any interest from cash which is stored there and earns interest in their money market must be reported.
But it does make it much quicker and easier to transfer money between parties and between any electronic accounts we may have.
Currently it will allow you to accept money from anyone who has a credit card, bank account or money in their paypal account from the US and some foreign countries. (and who also has a paypal account and email address). It also will allow you to fund it by transferring money from your bank account. For most folks, there is 2.9% charge for each accepted transaction which is comparable to a business merchant account at your bank.
Merchant Accounts will allow you to accept credit cards only, usually have a limit on how much you can accept per month (depending on your credit score and time with them) and a lag period before you can get your cash, whereas Paypal is instantaneous. You can get your money back by using their ATM card, having them transfer money to your bank account or by having them mail you a check. A pretty big advantage over merchant accounts for electronic commerce, at least.
But there are a few things you really need to look out for when using them and many horror stories around (though they have gotten better than the early days www.paypalsucks.com)
Fist of all, is the need to really be careful about who you accept money from. Set your profile so that it will ask you if you want to receive money from anyone with an unverified address. In this way you can look at their record and decide if they are a safe risk. Someone with 1200 paypal transactions is probably ok, but the person with 2 and no verified address may be risky for any large amounts of cash. Credit card fraud is rampant (especially from overseas countries) and it is prudent to protect yourself.
Secondly, they can place a hold on your account at any time they please and pretty much for any reason. This is why you really need to empty that account into your pocket when you have any large sums you don't want tied up. If you have a business account, you can set your profile to automatically transfer it to your bank account daily. If not, you need to get in there and do it manually or use your ATM card.
Never use a PayPal Account to store large amounts of cash in!
And supposedly, they aren't able to touch or transfer any money in the bank account you have tied to them without your approval. But I still don't trust them and usually transfer large amounts out of that account also. Just call me a touch paranoid.
The main reason to use Paypal is for its convenience in accepting/paying money and transferring it to different bank accounts.
There are also a myriad of other electronic payment systems available, like StormPay, etc, but time will tell whether they will develop or not.
Online banking is all the rage nowdays, letting you do everything from pay your bills electronically, to invest and check your statements online. Very convenient and pretty secure.
Online bank accounts are definitely not private, but make a great way to build that public profile we talked about and pay everyday living expenses. Check with your bank to see if they have it available or try NetBank (www.netbank.com) or the Internet Bank (www.bankofinternet.com).
You can also use it to transfer money between your bank account and various electronic forms of cash for convenience sake.
eGold (www.egold.com) is one of the major forms of electronic currencies which allow you to store any excess cash you have in Gold, instead of in US Dollars (or other currencies). Basically, an exchange rate is set and you can buy X amount of egold which is stored in their physical vaults in the Caribbean Island of Nevis.
Personally, I prefer to have most gold and silver in my actual possession, but if the dollar falls or crashes, it may make an attractive alternative for storing any excess amounts of cash in gold if you do worldwide commerce.
The reason I don't fully trust them though, is that if the dollar does crash, there may be regulations or other conditions which may make it hard for us to get our gold out, at least if we are in the US.
The main reason I use them for is an intermediary transfer service between US Dollars and another service called Webmoney, which I will cover in a minute.
Opening an eGold account is relatively easy. They ask for an account name, username, password, email and address and phone for a point of contact. It is still US based and not very private when it comes down to it. But I have opened 3 accounts using fake names and addresses. For the first one, I set up a mail drop in a fake name, an email account at msn and used a fake phone number. The second two times, I didn't even bother to do that. And as far as I know, they never did bother to verify any of my details.
All I needed to access my account was my username and password. And I still can do it to this day.
Getting money into your egold account can be done through accepting payments from others with an egold account or bank transfer, check or anonymous money order, etc through the list of exchange providers/market makers on their site (www.e-gold.com/unsecure/links.htm)
So if by chance you happen to be dealing in the underground economy and have a large sum of cash you want to keep private, you can do so through money order (and it used to be even better when they accepted PayPal, but I haven't found a way to do that in quite awhile, though you can be payed that way. ie-set up anonymous business on the net that accepts paypal and all paypal goes into egold and then to webmoney).
To get your money out, you can sell it back to the market makers and receive checks, bank transfers, or even ATMs and other methods depending upon the current market makers abilities which change constantly (I currently use gold age www.goldage.net for most transfers).
When I do have a little bit of extra cash around that I want to keep pretty private and secure, I usually send a money order or two or three to egold and then use a market maker like goldage or roboxchange (www.roboxchange.com) to transfer it to an offshore account called Webmoney in the European country of Latvia.
This is another tried and true ecurrency which has been around for a while. It was originally created by Russian organized crime rings as a way to transfer the massive profits generated from credit card fraud and identity theft securely around the world, but has now gained worldwide usage.
It is based in Latvia and because the majority of Latvia's economy is focused on banking, it has one of the most stable currencies in the world. Webmoney makes use of "purses" which are essentially numbered bank accounts created and destroyed on the fly for each transaction. It uses 128-bit certificates to verify user's identities, has no ID requirements, and is very very easy to use; all you need to set it up is a fake email address.
Make sure you burn a copy of the certificate file to a CD (you'll understand what I mean when you sign up). Put this CD in a secure location and DO NOT LOSE IT. If you ever lose your computer this CD will be the only way you can get at your Webmoney account.
I feel the best thing to do is to open a storage garage with a fake ID for like $15 a month, and keep everything you want to hide (spare computer, the webmoney CD, ID's, some emergency cash, etc..) there. (or store it at some cache).
Now of course this cash isn't making you any money, you don't have easy access to it, but it is a very nice and private way to keep your extra cash out of thieves hands for a rainy day.
To get it out, all you have to do is transfer it back into eGold or another currency and use your ATM card.
Please realize that this advanced technique is more for the high rollers, but who knows when you might come across an extra $10,000 that needs to be secured. (and these e-currencies and market makers constantly change and there are many available, so please do your homework. I've only discussed the ones I feel you can halfway trust).
And as they say, you can't eat gold, especially when it is offshore :)
Miscellaneous Privacy Techniques
We'll briefly discuss a few more techniques which you may want to add to your arsenal.
Paper Tripping (or fake IDs).
Why might it be a good idea to maintain a little bit of privacy in our lives, especially when it comes to our financial dealings?