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#8  Top 20 Privacy Tips

Online Privacy Manual

With all those online privacy measures, it's often easy to forget about your offline privacy, which is just as important! Here are our top 20 tips to enhance your offline privacy.

#1: Use Private Mail Boxes, Maildrops or P.O. Boxes for all important mail.

There are two main reasons for doing so:

  1. A home mail box is exposed to the public and is an identity thief's goldmine.

  2. Government agencies can monitor your mail without obtaining a warrant in the US. This is called mail cover. No warrant is needed because the mail is not opened. The authorities record the address, sender, return address, meter number, place and date of postmark, class of mail, etc for all mail delivered to your home address. This monitoring can reveal a lot of things about who you are over an extended period of time. Private Mail Boxes, Mail Drops and Post Office boxes frustrate this attempt.

#2: Never give out your social security number without protesting, and without having obtained further information from the party to whom you are giving the number. Remember, all an identity thief needs is your social security number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name to do incredible damage to you!

#3: Act likewise with all your personal information. Ask why they want it and what they will do with it! When you are satisfied that your personal information is being collected for a legitimate purpose, give only the minimum required.

#4: Don't sue anyone and don't get sued either. Either event exposes you, invades your privacy and leaves lots of records.

#5: Don't enter contests, don't use "preferred customer" cards and don't return warranty cards. You would only help creating a profile about you which would then be used by marketers to send you junk mail.

#6: Always look for an opt-out box on any form seeking your personal information. If you don't want your information added to mailing lists or passed on to third parties, check it off! If you can't find an opt-out box, create your own by adding a sentence stating that you don't want your information sold, rented, or exchanged with other organizations for purposes beyond the immediate transaction.

#7: Don't write letters to the editor. These letters are read by government agencies, and if you state a politically incorrect opinion you might be targeted for further investigation or even put on the IRS' infamous "list of enemies".

#8: Don't run for political office and don't contribute to political campaigns. Either results in an invasion of your privacy.

#9: Check your credit report once a year.
The information in your report can determine if you get a loan, an apartment, a job or insurance coverage. It is available to credit grantors, employers, landlords and insurers. To protect yourself from being harmed by incorrect information, order your credit report once a year and make sure it is accurate. To learn how to request your credit report, contact:

Experian/TRW ($8) (888)-EXPERIAN(397-3742)
Equifax ($8) (800) 685-1111
Trans Union ($8) (800) 888-4213

#10: Find out if information about your medical history is stored in the insurance industry data base, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). You may receive a copy ($8) of your MIB report by writing or calling: Medical Information Bureau, P.O. Box 105, Essex Station, Boston, MA 02112. (617) 426-3660. The MIB website can be found at

#11: Don't use your ATM card or credit card to purchase anything. This would create a permanent record of what you buy. Instead, get cash from ATMs and use it to buy what you want to buy.

#12: If you must give your bank your mother's maiden name, give some other name. Criminals can find out your mother's maiden name and abuse it. If you use a different name which no one can find out, you will have better protection.

#13: Don't let sales clerks write down your drivers license number on credit card purchases. It's not required by law. If they insist then abandon the purchase and complain to the issuing credit card company.

#14: Have documents notarized in another state or country. This ensures your privacy as most notary offices are nothing other than a front organization for the government.

#15: Don't obtain citizenship in the country where you want to live. Foreigners are always treated better as the government won't "own" you. In addition to this you can't be drafted and your passport can't be confiscated as easily.

#16: Instruct magazines/organizations to not share your address. This is common sense. Only give out your address to those who promise to keep it confidential.

#17: Don't say anything on any phone that's sensitive. ECHELON might be listening!

#18: Avoid calling 800, 888 and 900 numbers unless you already have a relationship with the company (like your favorite catalog company). When calling 800, 888 and 900 numbers, your phone number can be recorded by a system called Automatic Number Identification (ANI) and then sold to marketers for mail and phone solicitations.

#19: Instruct family members to limit information they volunteer. If you protect your family's privacy but they freely give away all information about you, then your efforts will be futile. Educate your as to what to say and what kind of information to withhold.

#20: Read every contract or application and look for waivers of your right to privacy. All your rights might be taken away by some fine print! Don't let it happen.

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