Monday, July 27, 2009

Privacy in Japan vs. privacy in the United States

Japan has a registration system for all citizens and foreigners at the local city office. Citizens are registered pen-to-paper on family trees called "koseki". This is the foundation for employment, bank accounts, national health insurance, voting. All of the afore-mentioned activities are cross-checked through the city office.

Separately, foreigners are registered by a photo ID card called "gaikouko-jin-cardo", or in the vernacular, "gaijin card" issued for the duration of their passport stamp. Any changes to a foreigner’s life, for example address, marriage/divorce, job changes are written in ink on the back of the card and pen-to-paper in the city office.

“For Japanese people,” says an American expat living in Japan, “it is impossible to dodge this system. If there is any doubt raised as to your registration, you will find your bank account temporarily inactive, health insurance card not working at the clinic, etc. This happened to me several years ago. I moved and thought I would tell everybody later, as in 30 days or so. I went to the doctor for a check-up and the receptionist asked if I moved recently. I said yes. She wrote down my new address.

"How did she know? My company’s HR staff called me to say that my bank called to confirm my address before my salary could be deposited. My name didn’t match the address on my salary deposit. How did they know? Landlords are expected to inform on tenants who come or go!”

Wait, there’s more!

“Japanese don't use checks,” he says. “Instead, they go to any ATM and type in the recipients name or company name, bank name, account number, and insert cash. A record is then sent to all parties. One’s entire financial life is recorded -- how much the telephone bill is, medical clinics visited, religious contributions, debts paid to loan shark consumer finance companies, etc.”

Compare that to the U.S., where—if you move—by following the instructions in How to Be Invisible you can hide your true home address for the rest of your life. Further, if you follow the instructions in Invisible Money, you can hide your cash payments as well

Monday, July 20, 2009

How to hide your secret home address from the UPS

As readers of How to Be Invisible already know, you should never accept mail at your true home address. Routine mail can be received in a post office box and sensitive mail can arrive at a faraway ghost address.

However, some companies irritatingly refuse to ship to a PO Box. (I just did battle with Goes Litho from Chicago about this. They finally relented when I offered to pay extra to have bordered bond paper sent to my PO Box.) But what if the company refuses to budge and yet you are determined to keep your home address a secret?

You can try another supplier. If that does not work, you may think about using the address of a relative or friend. However, that may present a serious loss of privacy. Here is a recent example (names have been disguised):

Burnett Williams, recently retired, sold his home where he had lived for 30 years and moved from Montana to a secret address in Arizona. Given the way the Federal Reserve is currently printing money by the trainload, he feared that a serious devaluation was coming within two years, so what to do with all the cash?

After checking with some knowledgeable friends, he decided to put 20 percent of it into silver bullion. The immediate problem he faced was that silver bullion is heavy and is usually shipped only by UPS. UPS keeps an international database with the address of every shipper and every receiver. Once your address gets into their system, it never gets out.

Williams was not about to let any neighbor or friend accept this shipment on his behalf because the contents (given the shipper’s business name and the weight) would be obvious. End of privacy! He therefore gave the following name and address to the supplier. (This is the address of a UPS Customer Center. Note that he did not give them his distinctive first name.)

B. Williams

1975 E. Wildermuth
Tempe, AZ 85281

When he picked up the shipment he used his passport for ID, since passports never include an address. And if anyone googles “B. Williams,” some 641,000 results will show up!

That is how you too can protect your secret home address when a supplier insists on shipping via UPS.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Talk to your children about Facebook and MySpace!

Or, if you are one of those rare parents who have control of your children and value your privacy, then keep them off social networking websites altogether. (Remember the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”) I just received this e-mail from a young woman in California. You may wish to discuss her predicament with your teen or even pre-teen daughters:

My name is Cristina and I'm 21 years old. I found you after hours and hours of research on the internet. I would really appreciate some information from you if you could spare some time.
Up until now, I've been extremely naive about how easily your personal information can be recovered over the internet. I met a boy on MySpace and we became friends. We talked over e-mails for a couple years. This spring something in my gut told me to stop contact....
Ever since then I've been paranoid and scared about him being able to find me ... I'd like to get my information out of all personal databases, which I know can be much harder than it sounds since there are so many … What do you recommend?
I am going to purchase your book, How to Be Invisible, which looks very helpful. Ultimately I want my home address private the way it should be.
Thanks so much for your time and consideration. I really appreciate it more than you know. I'm looking forward to your response as it will make my soul much lighter. : )
—-Sincerely, Cristina
Here was my answer: “Unless you move, it will be impossible to hide your home address. It is out there in just too many places. Are you in a position where you can move? If so, read my book before you do so.”

And I now add this advice to all you young people: Skip college (no privacy there!) and never take a normal job because you’ll go into the infamous “New Hires” list. Instead, learn how to go into business for yourself. My e-book "Skip College” tells you how to do just that. It sells for $17 but if you send me an e-mail with your first name, your age, and your state, and tell me a little about yourself, I will send you this e-book at NO CHARGE. Why? because it may change your entire life!

Monday, July 6, 2009

A New Mexico LLC — why so special for privacy?

To form a New Mexico LLC, the only information required for the Articles of Organization is:

(1) the name of the company and the address of the principal office.

(2) the name and address of the resident agent (which must be a street address in New Mexico), and

(3) the duration of the LLC (often December 31, 2099)

A New Mexico LLC need not include the names of members. The mailing address of the principal office can be anywhere in the world. And unlike all other states, a New Mexico LLC does not require an annual report. Thus, changes in membership take place in total darkness.

How do you use a New Mexico LLC? You title your car, boat, plane, mobile home, travel trailer, motorcycle or real estate in the name of the New Mexico LLC instead of your own name. And what does the NM LLC cost?

At low as $325 at this site, which includes not only the charter and the Articles of Organization, but three years paid ahead for the New Mexico LLC’s resident agent, as well as a foreign address for your "principal place of business." (Records, therefore, cannot be subpoened!)