Monday, March 30, 2009

Who needs a personal privacy consultant?

I want to be invisible … I paint my
face and travel at night.

—Ralph Reed

In theory, How to Be Invisible covers all the bases but in practice, sometimes a consultant who specializes in personal privacy is required. Here are the reasons why a retired detective and a wealthy widow recently flew to Las Vegas for private consultations with me. (Names have been changed.)

Jim Williams, 65, a retired Seattle police detective:

Jim was divorced, no children, and had no close relatives. His problem was that he could foresee that a vindictive investor named Max was going to file an unjust—if not frivolous— lawsuit against him. Once filed, Jim could be tied down for months or years and end up with horrendous legal costs. The alternative?

“I’d like to just disappear without a trace,” he said. “I’ve got my eye on an offshore blue-water sailboat and I’d like to cruise up to Alaska in the summer and down to Mexico in the winter. The problem is how to title the boat so my name does not appear, and how to get my monthly pension checks and cash them without leaving a clue as to what port I’m in.”

Helen Holmes, 57, a wealthy widow from Arkansas:

Helen nearly died in a major car accident several years ago. “When I recovered,” she said, “I felt like a different person and I wanted to start life over. I’m going to sell off all my land holdings and just disappear, but I need some help.” She planned to travel for several years and then settle down some place “far, far away from Arkansas.” Her two requirements were (1) where to securely hide a large sum of money when her properties were sold, and (2) how to obtain and use a bank account that could normally not be traced back to her.

Both Jim and Helen left Las Vegas with their problems solved. So who needs a personal privacy consultant? Anyone who wants to make sure that when they disappear, they really disappear!

Monday, March 23, 2009

How to stop RFID-tracking and help avoid identity theft

For too long I dismissed the possibility of identity theft or fraud via one of those increasingly common long-distance RFID readers. This was because I normally do not carry a credit card, a passport, or a driver’s license.

However, even though I’m not a tin-foil-hat-wearing paranoid, I’ve been traveling more than usual lately and this does require me to carry a passport for airport security (TSA), a credit card for the hotel (even though I pay cash), and a driver’s license for renting a car. Thus, the time had come to get some protection for the RFID chips.

[1] An RFID-blocking passport case. My passport goes on the left. On the right are four slots for my single credit card, my AAA card, my driver’s license and my business cards.

[2] An elegant RFID-blocking wallet made from Italian leather, for occasional use around town—primarily for its good looks. Each pocket has its own layer of shielding material.

[3] A front-pocket wallet for protection against pickpockets (also RFID-protected). I was a little doubtful about this one, even though I do switch my wallet from my back left pocket to my front left pocket when trapped in a crowd. However, I got used to this one fast, liked it, and plan to carry it on future trips.

Low-cost solutions:

If you are not yet ready for an RFID-blocking wallet, stack your credit cards and driver’s license next to each other. That will at least reduce their strength. A more secure solution is to wrap them in tin foil, if you can find it. (It seems to be disappearing from the market.) Do not use aluminum foil—that doesn’t work.

Or, for $8.95 you can buy an RFID-blocking three-layered electronic shield which is the size of a dollar bill. It fits nicely in any wallet.

Monday, March 16, 2009

How to disappear before midnight tonight!

This information is directed to a young woman who’s just learned that her ex-boyfriend is on the way to her city and he’s carrying handcuffs and duct tape. Although How to Be Invisible details plans to disappear eventually, what is needed at present is to disappear NOW!

Your ex-boyfriend may have illegal access to records normally confined to the police and the government. Assuming this might be the case, here’s what to do:

Remove the battery from your cell phone so that it cannot be tracked. If you can’t get the battery out, then leave it behind or give it away. If you must make a call in regard to some urgent matter, use a pay phone but then leave that area the moment you hang up. Empty your bank account, pawn anything of value, and borrow from your friends. From this point on, do not use a credit, debit, or ATM card.

If you have a car or can borrow one, flee the city and if possible the state. If you have any small items that can be sold later on Craigslist, stuff them in the trunk. Obey all traffic signs and stay within the speed limit. Even if your stalker is a policeman—as some are!—it is unlikely that he would dare put out an all-points bulletin (or BOLO, which stands for "be on the lookout").

From this point on, use only the U.S. mail to communicate with your family and friends. They can reply to you via a new Webmail address provided they enter you in their address books under another name and address you only with that name in each e-mail. You can pick up these messages in a library or an Internet cafe. But now comes the hardest part—finding a place to stay. On the road, avoid all major chains because they demand ID and enter it in their computer databases. Instead, choose a small mom-and-pop motel where they will accept whatever name you give them as long as you pay cash.

When you get to where you are going, either stay with an old friend who is unknown to your stalker or else rent a room from a private party. (Use your “new” name.) Then, and only then, pick up a copy of How to Be Invisible at Barnes & Noble and start planning your future.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Save your money—don’t send your kids to college

Four of the five richest persons in
America are college dropouts
--Forbes magazine

The majority of today’s high school graduates should never go to college. Often, they have no idea what they want to do, once they graduate.

If you are concerned about morals, think of the peer pressure involving drugs, binge drinking, and indiscriminate sex. If you are concerned about privacy, remember that all privacy will be lost until they graduate or drop out. If you are concerned about money, remember that you or they will end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no guarantee whatsoever of a high-paying job after graduation.

William Fitzimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard College, urges prospective students to take a “time off” break of one year, before going on to the university. “For almost thirty years,” he says, “Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission.”

Margit Dahl, director of Yale's undergraduate admissions, is also a strong advocate of deferring admission for one year. "We would love it to grow,” she says.

In the UK, taking a year off is called a “gap year.” British universities (and parents) not only accept that students take a gap year, it's practically expected. Even Prince William went to do volunteer work in Chile before continuing his studies. There is a natural break at this time in people's lives," says Susannah Hecht, editor of The Gap Year Guidebook. "The opportunity is there because there is a lack of responsibilities." She says that gap years are also seen in England as a chance to develop skills and to take personal responsibility as an adult.”

At the end of the gap year, your son or daughter may have a whole new outlook that does not involve a so-called higher education. (The information in this post is taken from SKIP COLLEGE: Go into Business for Yourself.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

No time to learn the martial arts?

“It takes years to master any martial art,” says Matt Thomas, the world class martial artist who founded the first Model Mugging program over 34 years ago. “It can, in fact, take several years just to learn a correct karate punch.”

“If you really want to learn the martial arts,” adds Massad Ayoob in The Truth About Self-Protection, “you must understand that it will take hundreds or even thousands of hours of hard work, strenuous calisthenics, bruised and pulled muscles.”

What about weapons such as knives, scissors, or even small handguns? Well, first, you have to have the weapon ready and available when you need it, and you seldom if ever know ahead of time about an impending attack. And, even if you have the weapon ready, unless you can disguise it, you lose the all-important element of surprise—one of the fundamentals of good self-defense. Here are two weapons that do not look like weapons and that can be naturally carried in your hand:

1. SureFire flashlight.
These high-intensity lights are used by elite military units such as the U.S. Navy SEALs, Rangers, Ravens, Recon and Delta. The SureFire E2D LED Defender is less than five inches long, weighs only 3.2 ounces, and can seldom be seen when you carry it in your hand. This powerful little package is designed to inflict serious damage. In addition, if attacked in the dark, you can blind the assailant by aiming the unit directly at his eyes and then triggering the 120-lumen beam by pressing the large button on the end.

2. Mont Blanc 'Meisterstuck' pen.
If you have been trained in the use of a Kubotan, the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck can be a devastating weapon. The pen is heavy, strong, and the pointed end makes it even more dangerous than the blunt end of a Kubotan. Both the pens and the SureFire flashlights can be ordered at Expect to pay about $140 for the flashlight or $300 for the pen.

Additional information on more self-defense weapons is available in Dirty Tricks.